Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Urbana, Illinois » Global Change and Photosynthesis Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #326767

Research Project: Understanding and Responding to Multiple-Herbicide Resistance in Weeds

Location: Global Change and Photosynthesis Research

Title: Precision control of soil N cycling via soil functional zone management

Author
item Williams, Alwyn - University Of Minnesota
item Davis, Adam
item Ewing, Patrick - University Of Minnesota
item Grandy, A Stuart - University Of New Hampshire
item Kane, Daniel - Michigan State University
item Koide, Roger - Brigham Young University
item Mortensen, David - Pennsylvania State University
item Smith, Richard - University Of New Hampshire
item Snapp, Sieglinde - Michigan State University
item Spokas, Kurt

Submitted to: Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/18/2016
Publication Date: 7/25/2016
Citation: Williams, A., Davis, A.S., Ewing, P., Grandy, A., Kane, D., Koide, R.T., Mortensen, D.A., Smith, R.G., Snapp, S., Spokas, K.A. 2016. Precision control of soil N cycling via soil functional zone management. Agriculture Ecosystems and the Environment. 231:291-295.

Interpretive Summary: Soil functional zone management (SFZM) is designed to allow soil building and nutrient supplying processes to coexist side by side. Managing soil disturbance in this way may improve soil N management compared with conventional and no-tillage approaches by focusing on the timing and location (crop row vs inter-row) of soil N cycling processes. We compared N mineralization and availability during the period of corn peak N demand in crop rows and inter-rows in SFZM and conventional tillage systems at four sites across the US Corn Belt over three growing seasons. Under SFZM, N mineralization and availability were significantly greater in crop rows, where the majority of crop roots are found, compared with inter-rows. In contrast, in conventional tillage N mineralization and availability were greater in inter-rows compared with crop rows. The results demonstrate that SFZM can manage N cycling processes in both space and time to make N available when and where the corn plant needs it. This can lead to increases in crop N-use efficiency compared with conventional tillage, reducing risks of N leaching and denitrification.

Technical Abstract: Managing the soil nitrogen (N) cycle is a major component of agricultural sustainability. Soil functional zone management (SFZM), a novel framework of agroecosystem management, may improve soil N management compared with conventional and no-tillage approaches by focusing on the timing and location (crop row vs inter-row) of soil N cycling processes. We compared N mineralization and availability during the period of maize peak N demand in crop rows and inter-rows in SFZM and conventional tillage systems at four sites across the US Corn Belt over three growing seasons. Under SFZM, N mineralization and availability were significantly greater in crop rows, where the majority of crop roots are found, compared with inter-rows. In contrast, in conventional tillage N mineralization and availability were greater in inter-rows compared with crop rows. The results demonstrate that SFZM can manage N cycling processes in both space and time to concentrate N mineralization and availability close to crop roots in synchrony with crop developmental needs. SFZM therefore has potential to increase crop N-use efficiency compared with conventional tillage, and thereby reduce risks of N leaching and denitrification.