Published in Agronomy Journal, Volume 75, July 1, 1983, pages 654-656.
Publisher website: http://www.agronomy.org
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author David J. Wehner was affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Currently, April 2008, he is the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo.
The components of a turfgrass ecosystem, including plants, an intervening layer of thatch and the underlying soil, influence the fate of topically applied urea fertilizer. The loss of urea N by ammonia volatilization may be governed by the rate of urea hydrolysis. The main objective of this study was to determine the extent of urease activity associated with turfgrass plant tissue, thatch, and the underlying soil. This information may help elucidate the mechanism of ammonia loss following urea application. Because a turfgrass stand frequently possesses an extensive thatch layer that may serve as the primary plant growth medium, additional objectives included: i) determining the effects of air drying and seasonal variation on the activity of urease in thatch; ii) determining the variability in thatch urease activity by analyzing multiple field samples; and iii) determining the variation of urease activity within a thatch profile. Turfgrass clippings, thatch, and underlying Flanagan silt loam soil (Aquic Argiudoll) samples were taken from a field-grown Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) turf in either September 1980 or March 1981. On a dry weight basis, urease activity was 18 to 30 times higher from turfgrass clippings and thatch than from soil. Air drying thatch increased urease activity by 20 % over moist samples while air drying soil samples had no apparent effect. Greenhouse incubation of winter-dormant thatch samples increased urease activity 40 %, presumably in response to the duration of increased temperature. Thatch urease activity varied between sampling sites but still remained extremely high compared to soil activity. Within each thatch sample (1 X 1 X 2 cm), urease activity was highest in the upper 1.0 cm of the profile. It was concluded that thatch urease activity was variable in nature depending upon seasonal conditions which contrasts sharply with extremely stable soil urease activities. These findings suggest that, because of the high level of urease in thatch, ammonia volatilization will occur from most urea-treated turfgrass stands, regardless of the type of underlying soil unless the urea is thoroughly washed into the soil.
Agronomy and Crop Sciences