Abstract: About 1% of New Zealand farmland is managed organically. Nitrogen is the nutrient most likely to limit organic crop production. A potential solution is incorporation of compost to supply N. About 726,000 t of municipal garden and kitchen wastes are sent to landfills annually. Composting offers a means of reducing the impact of landfill wastes on the wider environment. Organically certified compost (N content typically 2% to 2.5%) is available from some municipal composting plants. To be effectively used on organic farms, the rate of N release (mineralization) must be known. Laboratory incubations were conducted to quantify mineralization of compost N under controlled (temperature and moisture) conditions. Nitrogen availability and crop yields from a one-off application of compost (25–100 t·ha−1) were also assessed in two field trials (using cereal and forage crops). The results suggested that a relatively small part (13%–23%) of compost N was used by the crops in 3–4 years. Much of this was mineral N present at the time of application. Mineralization rates in the laboratory and field studies were much lower than expected from published work or compost C:N ratio (considered an important indicator of N mineralization potential of composts).
Abstract: High air temperatures during the crop growing season can reduce harvestable yields in major agronomic crops worldwide. Repeated and prolonged high night air temperature stress may compromise plant growth and yield. Crop varieties with improved heat tolerance traits as well as crop management strategies at the farm scale are thus needed for climate change mitigation. Crop yield is especially sensitive to night-time warming trends. Current studies are mostly directed to the elevated night-time air temperature and its impact on crop growth and yield, but less attention is given to the understanding of night-time soil temperature management. Delivering irrigation water through drip early evening may reduce soil temperature and thus improve plant growth. In addition, corn growers typically use high-stature varieties that inevitably incur excessive respiratory carbon loss from roots and transpiration water loss under high night temperature conditions. The main objective of this study was to see if root-zone soil temperature can be reduced through drip irrigation applied at night-time, vs. daytime, using three corn hybrids of different above-ground architecture in Uvalde, TX where day and night temperatures during corn growing season are above U.S. averages. The experiment was conducted in 2014. Our results suggested that delivering well-water at night-time through drip irrigation reduced root-zone soil temperature by 0.6 °C, increase root length five folds, plant height 2%, and marginally increased grain yield by 10%. However, irrigation timing did not significantly affect leaf chlorophyll level and kernel crude protein, phosphorous, fat and starch concentrations. Different from our hypothesis, the shorter, more compact corn hybrid did not exhibit a higher yield and growth as compared with taller hybrids. As adjusting irrigation timing would not incur an extra cost for farmers, the finding reported here had immediate practical implications for farm scale adaptation to hot environments.
Abstract: Drought at pre-anthesis stages can influence barley growth and results in yield losses. Therefore, it is important to understand how drought at pre-anthesis can affect different traits associated with yield reduction in barley. The objective of this study was to understand the relevance of the genetic background of major flowering time genes in barley plants subjected to pre-anthesis drought and its impact on yield and yield components. A glasshouse experiment using a Randomized Complete Block Design was conducted to investigate the effect of drought and its timing on yield and yield components on eleven barley genotypes, which were selected to represent genetic diversity of major flowering time genes (PPDH1, PPDH2, HvVrn1, HvVrn2 and HvVrn3). Barley plants were exposed to three water regimes, non-stressed and stressed, which was applied at two pre-anthesis growth stages, tillering (SS) and stem elongation (SE). Results identified differences among genotypes in all measured traits. Grain yield, grain number and "thousand kernel weight" were reduced in all genotypes due to drought, irrespective of the growth stage. Early flowering genotypes had better performance as reflected in higher yield compared with late flowering genotypes. Results verified the fundamental importance of early flowering to improve productivity in response to pre-anthesis drought. The results of this study can help in selecting barley lines for future breeding purposes with improved resilience to drought conditions in Mediterranean environments.
Abstract: Cellulosic biofuel production is expected to increase in the US, and the targeted establishment of biofuel agriculture in marginal lands would reduce competition between biofuels and food crops. While poorly drained, seasonally saturated lowland landscape positions are marginal for production of row crops and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), it is unclear whether species-diverse tallgrass prairie yield would suffer similarly in saturated lowlands. Prairie yields typically increase as graminoids become more dominant, but it is uncertain whether this trend is due to greater aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) or higher harvest efficiency in graminoids compared to forbs. Belowground biomass, a factor that is important to ecosystem service provisioning, is reduced when switchgrass is grown in saturated lowlands, but it is not known whether the same is true in species-diverse prairie. Our objectives were to assess the effect of topography on yields and live belowground biomass in row crops and prairie, and to determine the mechanisms by which relative graminoid abundance influences tallgrass prairie yield. We measured yield, harvest efficiency, and live belowground biomass in upland and lowland landscape positions within maize silage (Zea mays L.), winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and restored tallgrass prairie. Maize and winter wheat yields were reduced by more than 60% in poorly drained lowlands relative to well-drained uplands, but diverse prairie yields were equivalent in both topographic settings. Prairie yields increased by approximately 45% as the relative abundance of graminoids increased from 5% to 95%. However, this trend was due to higher harvest efficiency of graminoids rather than greater ANPP compared to forbs. In both row crops and prairie, live belowground biomass was similar between upland and lowland locations, indicating consistent biomass nutrient sequestration potential and soil organic matter inputs between topographic positions. While poorly drained, lowland landscape positions are marginal lands for row crops, they appear prime for the cultivation of species-diverse tallgrass prairie for cellulosic biofuel.
Abstract: Agronomic N-use efficiency is the basis for economic and environmental efficiency, and an effective agro-ecosystem management practice, improving nutrient use efficiency, is a crucial challenge for a more sustainable production of horticultural, industrial and cereal crops. However, discrepancy between theory and practice still exists, coming from large gaps in knowledge on net-N immobilization/mineralization rates in agro-ecosystems, as well as on the effects of indigenous and applied N to crop response. A more thorough understanding of these topics is essential to improve N management in agricultural systems. To this end, the present Special Issue collects research findings dealing with different aspects of agronomic efficiency of N in different agro-ecosystems, and environmental impact derived from fertilization management practices. In particular, the Special Issue contains selected papers, which concern a wide range of topics, including analyzing tools, options of management, calculation equation and modeling approaches.
Abstract: Nitrogen (N) losses negatively impact groundwater quality. Spring wheat genotypes varying in N-fertilizer recovery were studied (by using lysimeters) for their potential to minimize NO3-N leaching during spring and summer, over a three-year period. Additionally, we examined to what extent root growth and NO3-N leaching explain the well-known difference found between apparent and isotopic N recovery. The genotypes were grown under low (2 g m−2) and high (27 g m−2) N fertilizer supply. On average, the apparent and isotopic recoveries of N fertilizer by wheat were 43% and 51%, respectively. The three genotypes varied in fertilizer N recovery but not in NO3-N leaching, which only accounted for 15% of the applied N fertilizer. The differences in N uptake, fertilizer N recovery and root growth among the genotypes were not associated with the leached NO3-N because root growth and N uptake were not well synchronized with NO3-N leaching. Already at stem elongation 70% to 98% of the season-long NO3-N leaching had already taken place. Thus, the ability to minimize in-season NO3-N leaching by using spring wheat genotypes with higher fertilizer N recovery was limited because maximum N leaching occurred in the early crop season.