Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Understanding soil water effects on nitrogen release from controlled‐release fertilizers

Verburg, K., Bristow, K.L., McLachlan, G.D., Muster, T.H., Poole, J.M., Mardel, J.I., Zhao, Z., Wittwer‐Schmid, K. and Wong, M.T.F. (2021) Understanding soil water effects on nitrogen release from controlled‐release fertilizers. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 85 (1). pp. 59-72.

Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required


Controlled‐release fertilizers (CRFs) have the potential to deliver crop production and environmental benefits through better control of applied nitrogen (N) in cropping systems. Whereas N release from CRFs can be impacted by several factors, there has been a widely held view that soil water has little effect on N release from polymer‐coated CRFs. Past research has often studied the soil water effect as a function of soil water content. This limits the transferability of results. In this study we measured N release from a polymer‐coated urea (PCU) and a polymer‐sulfur–coated urea (PSCU) using undisturbed soil cores at set matric potentials. Soil matric potential had a significant effect on N release from PCU. Release at −1,000 kPa was delayed by up to 30 d compared with −10 kPa. Optical stereo microscopy clarified that this was linked to differences in the rate of water absorption. Theoretical considerations demonstrate that these relatively large differences could not be explained by the effect of soil matric potential on vapor flow. It is possible that soil matric potential interacted with the properties of the coating to change its permeability or the involvement of liquid flow. The effect of soil water on N release from PSCU was less clear. The magnitude of the soil water effect is, therefore, product‐specific and dependent on coating properties. The soil matric potential provided a consistent description of release patterns between soils with contrasting soil water retention characteristics. Soil water effects should hence be studied as a function of soil matric potential.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education
Publisher: Soil Science Society of America
Copyright: © 2020 The Authors.
Item Control Page Item Control Page