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Fertilizer efficiency in wheat is reduced by ozone pollution

Journal article
Authors Malin Broberg
Johan Uddling
Gina Mills
Håkan Pleijel
Published in Science of the Total Environment
Volume 607-608
Pages 876-880
ISSN 0048-9697
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 876-880
Language en
Keywords Nitrogen, Nitrogen translocation, O3, Phosphorus, Potassium, Triticum aestivum
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


Inefficient use of fertilizers by crops increases the risk of nutrient leaching from agro-ecosystems, resulting in economic loss and environmental contamination. We investigated how ground-level ozone affects the efficiency by which wheat used applied nitrogen (N) fertilizer to produce grain protein (NE P , N efficiency with respect to protein yield) and grain yield (NE Y , N efficiency with respect to grain yield) across a large number of open-top chamber field experiments. Our results show significant negative ozone effects on NE P and NE Y , both for a larger data set obtained from data mining (21 experiments, 70 treatments), and a subset of data for which stomatal ozone flux estimates were available (7 experiments, 22 treatments). For one experiment, we report new data on N content of different above-ground plant fractions as well as grain K and P content. Our analysis of the combined dataset demonstrates that the grain yield return for a certain investment in N fertilizer is reduced by ozone. Results from the experiment with more detailed data further show that translocation of accumulated N from straw and leaves to grains is significantly and negatively affected by ozone, and that ozone decreases fertilizer efficiency also for K and P. As a result of lower N fertilization efficiency, ozone causes a risk of increased N losses from agroecosystems, e.g. through nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions, a hitherto neglected negative effect of ozone. This impact of ozone on the N cycle implies that society is facing a dilemma where it either (i) accepts increased N pollution and counteracts ozone-induced yield reductions by increasing fertilization or (ii) counteracts N pollution under elevated ozone by reducing fertilization, accepting further yield loss adding to the direct effect of ozone on yield.

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