Nitrogen accumulation in biomass and its partitioning in sugar cane grown in the Burdekin : ASSCT peer-reviewed paper
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Nitrogen is a key component of metabolic processes in plants and due to its mobile nature in soils is often a limiting factor in achieving maximum yield in commercial sugarcane crops grown in Australia. Demand for N depends upon a crop’s yield potential which is determined by climate, crop age and class and management practices (Muchow and Robertson, 1994). Determining the correct amount of nitrogen required to achieve maximum cane yield while minimising losses to the environment is a difficult task; however developing a basic understanding of nitrogen accumulation in biomass and the rate at which it accumulates will provide useful insights for agronomists, industry advisors and farmers. There have been few studies into the accumulation of nitrogen in the above-ground biomass of sugarcane in Australia. Wood et al. (1996) investigated the accumulation of N in the above ground biomass of two cultivars (Q117, Q138) and confirmed earlier findings from work in South Africa conducted by Thompson (1988), that most of the N was taken up in the first six months following planting/ratooning. In a recent review, Bell et al. (2014) reported that greater than 90% of the total above-ground N uptake occurs in the 200 day period after planting/ratooning. Few studies have been conducted into the accumulation of nitrogen in below ground biomass (roots and stool) of sugarcane in Australia. Bell et al. (2014), summarised the limited data collected to date and suggested that N in stool and root accumulates at about 20 kg N/ha/year while a further 10 kg N/ha/year accumulates in root material down to 60 cm. The objective of this study was to gain an insight into nitrogen accumulation in the above and below ground biomass of sugarcane and its partitioning in crops grown under irrigation in the Lower Burdekin region of Australia.