Residual Soil Nitrogen Evaluations in Irrigated Desert Soils, 2003
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AbstractField experiments aimed at investigating N fertilizer management in irrigated cotton production have been conducted for the past 16 seasons at three University of Arizona Agricultural Centers (Maricopa, MAC; Marana, MAR; and Safford, SAC). In 2003, residual N studies were conducted at two of these locations (MAC and MAR). The MAC and SAC experiments have been conducted each season since 1989 and the Marana site was initiated in 1994. Original purposes of the experiments were to test nitrogen (N) fertilization strategies and to validate and refine N fertilization recommendations for Upland (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and American Pima (G. barbadense L.) cotton. Each experiment has utilized N management tools such as pre-season soil tests for NO₃⁻-N, in-season plant tissue testing (petioles) for N fertility status, and crop monitoring to ascertain crop fruiting patterns and crop N needs. At each location, treatments varied from a conservative to a more aggressive approach of N management. Results at each location revealed a strong relationship between fruit retention levels and N needs of the crop. This pattern was further reflected in the final yield analysis as a response to the N fertilization regimes used. The higher, more aggressive N application regimes did not consistently benefit yields at any location. Generally, the more conservative, feedback approach to N management provided optimum yields at all locations. In 2001, a transition project evaluating residual N effects associated with each treatment regime was initiated with no N fertilizer applied. Therefore, all N taken-up by the crop was derived from residual soil N. In 2001, 2002, and even 2003 there were no significant differences among the original fertilizer N regimes in terms of residual soil NO₃⁻-N concentrations, crop growth, development, lint yield, or fiber properties. Lint yields were very uniform at each location in 1991 and averaged 1500, 1100, and 850 lbs. lint/acre for MAC, MAR, and SAC, respectively. In 2002, results were very similar and yields averaged 1473 and 1060 lbs. lint/acre for MAC and MAR locations respectively. The results for 2003 were similar to the results of the prior two years with yields at 1322 and 1237 lbs. lint/acre for MAC and MAR, respectively. Trends associated with residual fertilizer N effects are not evident at either location following three consecutive seasons of N fertilizer treatments.