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Field Crops Research 87 (2004) 257269

Nitrogen fertilization and foliar urea effects on durum wheat yield and quality and on residual soil nitrate in irrigated Mediterranean conditions
A. Abad*, J. Lloveras, A. Michelena
Universidad de Lleida, IRTA, Av. Rovira Roure 191, 25198 Lleida, Spain Received 30 January 2003; received in revised form 30 September 2003; accepted 13 November 2003

Abstract Field experiments with durum wheat were conducted at two locations with different initial soil nitrate contents during two growing seasons, 19941995 and 19951996, on irrigated Typic Xerouvent soils of the Ebro Valley (Spain). A total of seven nitrogen treatments with different rates and timing were investigated. In two treatments, 50 kg ha1 of nitrogen was applied as a urea foliar spray at the ag leaf stage. The average grain yields ranged from 2422 to 5730 kg ha1, depending on the year and location. Grain protein ranged from 14.1 to 16.4%, and other quality parameters such as gluten strength, vitreousness and carotenoids also varied with year and location. The overall results do not suggest that it can be generally recommended to apply N in these Mediterranean conditions. However, in soils with low initial soil NO3 -N contents, better grain yields and good protein contents, gluten strength, vitreousness and carotenoids could be achieved by applying N fertilizer at about 100 kg N ha1. This rate should be raised to 200 kg N ha1 when maximum durum wheat quality is needed, although this increases the risks of nitrate leaching. Foliar application of urea had no effects on grain yield and almost negligible effects on grain quality. Soil nitrate residues after harvest increased with increasing nitrogen rates at both locations. This research shows that the quality of the durum wheat produced in the irrigated Mediterranean areas of southern Europe is generally high, even at low rates of nitrogen application. They also suggest that even using high quality durum wheat varieties, the quality can still be increased by nitrogen fertilization, even at low nitrogen rates. The results suggest that it is worthwhile checking the initial nitrate contents of the soil in these areas of low winter rainfall. # 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Durum wheat; Nitrogen fertilization; Quality parameters; Mediterranean conditions

1. Introduction Durum wheat (Triticum turgidum var. durum) is a traditional crop that is included in most dishes and food products consumed in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean basin produces about 60% of the world
Corresponding author. Tel.: 34-973-702500; fax: 34-973-238301. E-mail address: aabad1@pie.xtec.es (A. Abad).
*

production, and has the ideal growing conditions for producing a grain quality suitable for various products (pasta, couscous, burghul) (Nachit, 1998). The rest is mainly produced in the USA and Canada (Belaid, 2000). In the irrigated areas of the Ebro Valley, because of EU subsidies to the crop, growers try to make wheat cultivation protable by planting higher-priced wheat cultivars and applying higher N rates with irrigation. This practice can be costly and ecologically

0378-4290/$ see front matter # 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.fcr.2003.11.007

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undesirable, and might result in the leaching of excess N through the soil and pollution of underground water. It is therefore important to conduct research to determine the crop response to N fertilization and to develop rational practices for more efcient N use in this crop (Knowles et al., 1994; Anderson, 2000), which requires a higher level of management than bread wheat (Impligia and Anderson, 1998). Quality of durum wheat is generally dependent on the protein content of the grain, at least in the range of protein percentages encountered in commercial wheat cultivars (Grant and Flaten, 1998; Anderson, 2000; Clarke, 2001). In turn, protein content is dependent on genotype but is also clearly inuenced by environment: basically the climate during the grain lling period and N availability (soil N and rate and time of N application) (Robinson et al., 1979; Gate, 1995; Selles and Zentner, 1998; Ottman et al., 2000; Rharrabti et al., 2001). By carefully managing N fertilization, less N may be needed while grain wheat yields and protein may be maintained or increased (Chaney, 1990; Alcoz et al., 1993; Gate, 1995; Grant and Flaten, 1998). For bread wheat the use of foliar urea to increase the protein content of the grain may provide the quality benets of N fertilization and simultaneously reduce the risks of nitrate leaching and denitrication (Gooding and Davies, 1992; Kettlewell and Juggins, 1992; Readman et al., 1997). The results show that the yield responses to urea sprays have been highly variable and only increased yield when previous N applications to the soil had been sub-optimal. Also, yield increases from urea sprays appear more likely in higher rainfall areas because of higher potential yield and greater nitrate leaching (Gooding and Davies, 1992). However, little research has been conducted on the application of foliar urea or of N application near anthesis in durum wheat (Hogg and Ackerman, 1998), possibly because durum wheat is normally grown in drier areas. Extensive research into the effect of N on bread wheat quality yield and nitrate leaching has been conducted in many areas of central Europe, Argentina and the USA (Dilz, 1988; Webster and Jackson, 1993; Gooding and Davies, 1997; Raun et al., 1999; Satorre and Slafer, 1999), but there is little information about the effects of these factors on durum wheat (Anderson, 2000; Ottman et al., 2000; di Fonzo et al., 2001),

particularly in Mediterranean environments where a large part of the world production of durum wheat comes from. The objective of this research was to study: (i) the effects of nitrogen fertilization on durum wheat yield, yield components and quality; and (ii) the soil residual nitrate content after harvest in two soils with different nitrate levels under irrigated conditions.

2. Materials and methods Field experiments with durum wheat were conducted in irrigated conditions on Typic Xerouvent soils during two growing seasons (19941995 and 19951996) at two sites of the Ebro Valley (Torregrossa and Bell-lloc, Spain). The soil at Bell-lloc was a deep silty-clay-loam and at Torregrosa it was a sandy-loam. The experiments were established on 28 December 1994 and 10 February 1996 at Torregrossa and on 7 January 1995 and 23 November 1995 at Bell-lloc. Temperatures and rainfall for the 1994 1995 and 19951996 wheat growing seasons are presented in Table 1. Crops were irrigated twice, in March and April, with a total of about 130 mm of water. Treatments were wheat cultivars and N fertiliza tion. Vitron and Bolo cultivars of durum wheat were chosen among the most common quality durum wheats grown in Spain (AETC, 1996). The seeding rates were 500 seeds m2 with an inter-row spacing of 20 cm and a plot size of 1:2 m 7 m. A total of seven N treatments and a control were investigated. No N was applied in the control. Four of the N treatments were applied at rates of 50, 100, 150 and 200 kg ha1. In these treatments 50 kg ha1 of N was applied at seeding and the balance at the end of tillering (growth stage 30, Zadoks et al., 1974). In two other N treatments of 150 and 200 kg ha1, N was applied at seeding (50 kg ha1) and at the ag leaf stage (growth stage 41, Zadoks et al., 1974) (50 kg ha1 as a urea foliar spray), and the balance was applied at the end of tillering. In the last treatment, N was applied as for the preceding treatment, except that the 50 kg N ha1 ag leaf application was applied to the soil. The urea solution was applied with a back-pack sprayer in a water carrier with a total volume of 400 l ha1. Minor tip burning was noted after spraying of the urea solution, but the plants

A. Abad et al. / Field Crops Research 87 (2004) 257269 Table 1 Mean (Tm) and maximum (Tmax) air temperatures and rainfall Month 19941995 Tmax (8C) November December January February March April May June July August September October Average or total 13.7 8.5 12.2 15.4 17.7 20.7 24.8 27.5 32.5 30.2 24.7 24.2 21.0 Tm (8C) 9.4 5.1 4.8 7.5 9.5 15.1 16.9 19.9 24.2 22.3 17.1 15.6 13.6 Rainfall (mm) 99.8 7.0 7.8 5.1 1.2 23.2 18.3 36.4 7.2 20.9 27.3 10.8 265.0 19951996 Tmax (8C) 16.4 10.1 12.8 11.9 16.8 19.6 24.1 28.6 30.8 29.0 24.4 20.6 18.8 Tm (8C) 9.6 6.7 8.0 5.5 9.3 12.5 16.4 20.6 22.4 21.9 16.6 12.5 13.5

259

Rainfall (mm) 25.2 95.9 118.8 5.7 14.2 45.4 30.6 52.0 9.8 27.1 23.4 33.6 505.1

recovered their green color within a short time. No measurable precipitation was recorded within 48 h of the foliar urea treatments. The initial soil analyses are presented in Tables 2 and 3. For the determination of soil nitrate, samples were collected from each plot in autumn before the application of fertilizer and again after harvest. Soil was sampled from 0 to 30, 30 to 60, and 60 to 90 cm using Eijkelkamp cylindrical augers. Soil nitrates were extracted with water, followed by measurement with nitrate test strips and Nitracheck1 (Bischoff et al., 1996), calibrated by standard procedure (Bremner, 1965). Weeds were controlled as needed with appropriate herbicides. The number of spikes per unit area was estimated by counting spikes just before harvest along 50 cm sections of two rows in each plot. Fifteen spikes per plot

were harvested for the determination of grains per spike and thousand kernel weight (TKW). Three measurements of plant height were taken from the soil to the base of the spike. Lodging was evaluated visually, using a 010 scale in which 0 represented no lodging and 10 represented 100% lodging. The grain was harvested in mid-July 1997 and late June 1998 using a 1.5 m wide Nurserymaster elite plot combine. The grain moisture level was measured in a 300 g sample from each plot and grain yield was adjusted to 14% moisture. Grain protein content (PC) was determined by near infrared reectance spectroscopy using a Technicon Infra Analyzer 400 instrument, and presented on dry matter bases. Test weight was obtained with a standard chondrometer. An SDS sedimentation volume test (Pena et al., 1990), a modication of that of Axford et al. (1979) using 1 g of our sample at

Table 2 Initial soil analyses in Torregrossa and Bell-lloc at three depths at seeding Torregrossa 030 cm pH Organic matter (g kg1) Available Pa (mg kg1) Available Kb (mg kg1)
a b

Bell-lloc 3060 cm 8.5 9 13 148 6090 cm 8.6 3 10 61 030 cm 8.1 21 44 412 3060 cm 8.0 14 12 254 6090 cm 8.0 10 6 164

8.4 17 41 305

Olsen method. Ammonium acetate method.

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Table 3 Soil nitrate (kg NO3 -N ha1 ) before seeding at three depths Torregrossa 030 cm 19941995 19951996 43 30 3060 cm 20 85 6090 cm 14 42 Bell-lloc 030 cm 116 651 3060 cm 88 212 6090 cm 111 316

14% moisture, was performed as an indicator of gluten strength. Carotenoid pigments were evaluated by extraction in solution of n-butanol saturated with water in samples of 3 g of our and measured in a spectrophotometer at 440 nm (ICC, 1998). Vitreousness was determined by visual inspection of 200 grains. The experimental design was a split-plot, with completely randomized blocks and four replications. N fertilizer treatments were the main plots, and cultivars the subplot. The results were subjected to analysis of variance with the general linear model procedure of

the Statistic Analysis System (SAS Institute, 1996). Statistical differences between several treatments were determined by single degree-of-freedom orthogonal contrasts.

3. Results and discussion 3.1. Grain yield and yield components Grain yield, spikes/m2, kernels per spike, TKW, specic weight and plant height for the different

Table 4 Yield components (spikes/m2, kernels per spike, 1000 kernel weight and specic weight) Treatments and statistics Spikes/m2 1995 Torregrossa 0 50 100 150 200 150 uf 200 uf 200 us Average Variety (V) Vitron Bolo Significance N V VN Contrast Foliar vs. no foliar Bell-lloc 0 50 277 292 325 341 374 331 343 293 323 330 314 NSb NS NS NS 1996 271 274 335 293 364 281 311 360 312 327 295
* *

Kernels per spike 1995 21.3 24.4 24.2 23.9 25.2 22.7 22.5 22.2 23.3 23.9 22.8 NS NS NS NS 1996 23.4 21.9 30.9 31.6 32.9 29.0 31.8 31.3 29.1 30.3 27.8
** **

1000 kernel weight (g) 1995 61.2 58.6 53.1 54.2 55.2 56.5 54.3 56.3 56.2 53.4 59.0 NS
**

Specific weight (kg/hl) 1995 83.9 83.8 83.8 83.6 82.8 83.3 83.5 83.2 83.5 84.0 82.9
* **

1996 51.9 52.9 53.2 46.6 40.9 47.1 41.8 43.9 47.3 45.8 48.8
** *

1996 82.1 81.7 81.2 80.8 79.8 80.9 79.9 79.7 80.0 81.8 79.7
** **

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

345 257

444 384

28.0 20.5

46.4 45.3

48.4 44.9

54.2 53.0

82.3 81.4

82.2 82.6

A. Abad et al. / Field Crops Research 87 (2004) 257269 Table 4 (Continued ) Treatments and statistics Spikes/m2 1995 100 150 200 150 uf 200 uf 200 us Average Variety (V) Vitron Bolo Significance N V VN Contrast Foliar vs. no foliar 283 285 251 340 310 295 296 305 286
**

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Kernels per spike 1996 430 404 401 396 375 394 404 401 405 NS NS NS NS 1995 22.5 24.4 24.6 26.4 24.1 25.7 24.6 23.4 25.6
** *

1000 kernel weight (g) 1995 45.9 44.9 44.2 48.6 47.6 43.7 46 45.8 46.1 NS NS NS NS 1996 51.4 50.0 49.0 50.4 53.0 48.7 51 54.4 48.2 NS
**

Specific weight (kg/hl) 1995 81.3 81.1 80.9 81.7 81.4 81.4 81.5 82.1 80.7 NS
**

1996 44.3 46.7 45.4 48.6 44.6 45.9 46.0 45.4 46.5 NS NS NS NS

1996 81.9 81.1 81.3 81.2 81.4 81.5 81.7 82.9 80.4
** **

NS NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

ANOVA over locations and years ** Year (Y) * Location (L) ** YL N NS V NS NY NS ** NL NV NS

** ** ** ** * * **

* ** ** ** * * *

** ** ** ** ** *

NS

NS

NS NS

In two N treatments (150 and 200 uf), the N was applied at seeding (50 kg ha1), at the ag leaf stage (50 kg ha1 as a urea foliar spray) and the balance at tillering. In the last treatment (200 us), N was applied as mentioned in the preceding except that the 50 kg N ha1 ag leaf application was applied to the soil. b Not signicant at the 0.05 probability level. * Signicant at the 0.05 probability level. ** Signicant at the 0.01 probability level.

durum wheat varieties, growing seasons, locations and N fertilizations are presented in Tables 4 and 5. There was a signicant interaction between N and site, and for this reason statistical analyses are presented separately for each site. This interaction was probably due to the high initial soil nitrogen contents at Bell-lloc, which reduced the response to nitrogen fertilization at this site. The nitrate levels at Torregrossa, from 0 to 90 cm depth, were 77 kg N ha1 in 1995 and 157 kg N ha1 in 1996, compared with 315 and 1179 kg N ha1 at Bell-lloc for the same years. At Bell-lloc, the response to N fertilization was lower than at Torregrossa, due to the high soil nitrate content

of this location (Table 3). No grain yield increase with N fertilization was observed at Bell-lloc. However, at Torregrossa, with a lower soil nitrate content, grain yield rose clearly with N fertilization up to 100 kg N ha1, showing lower increases with further N applications. Similar results have been reported in irrigated areas of Canada, where the recommendations for durum wheat of 120130 kg N ha1 were required to obtain targeted yields of 5000 kg ha1 at 13.5% protein under optimum irrigation conditions (rainfall irrigation 450 mm) (Hogg and Ackerman, 1998). The low response of wheat to nitrogen fertilization in high nitrate content soils such as those of Bell-lloc

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Table 5 Statistical signicances of grain yield and quality parameters (grain protein, SDS, vitreousness and carotenoids) of durum wheat Treatments and statistics Grain yield (kg ha1) 1995 Torregrossa Variety (V) Vitron Bolo Significance N V VN Contrast Foliar vs. no foliar Bell-lloc Variety (V) Vitron Bolo Significance N V VN Contrast Foliar vs. no foliar 1996 Grain protein (%DM) 1995 1996 SDS sediment (ml) 1995 1996 Vitreousness (%) 1995 1996 Carotenoids (ppm) 1995 1996

4133 4228
*

2553 2289
** ** *

14.8 14.7
**

13.9 14.4
** **

6.4 8.4
* **

8.8 10.8
** **

93 92
**

79 87
** **

4.7 5.3
* **

5.6 6.5
** **

NSa NS NS

NS NS NS

NS
*

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS

2598 2776 NS
*

6199 5245
* **

16.4 16.4 NS NS NS NS

14.7 14.9
** **

7.0 9.2 NS
**

7.8 9.2
** **

98 99 NS NS NS NS

86 85
*

5.4 6.3 NS
**

5.9 6.8 NS
**

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

ANOVA over locations and years * Year (Y) ** Location (L) ** YL N NS V NS NY NS ** NL NV NS


a

** ** ** ** *

** * ** ** * *

** **

** ** * ** *

NS
** * ** **

NS
*

NS

NS NS

NS

NS NS NS

Not signicant at the 0.05 probability level. Signicant at the 0.05 probability level. ** Signicant at the 0.01 probability level.
*

has also been reported for bread wheat (Alcoz et al., 1993; Scharf et al., 1993; Knowles et al., 1994). These types of yield response depending on the initial soil nitrate content suggest that it is worth adjusting the N fertilizer recommendations for durum wheat according to the initial soil nitrate content. The application of 50 kg N ha1 of foliar urea at the ag leaf stage in the N rates of 150 or 200 kg N ha1 did not increase grain yields compared with the application of N in the soil, suggesting that these rates were

too high to optimize the use of late foliar urea application at the production levels of these trials. The results also suggest that in the climatic conditions of the Ebro Valley, with low rainfall, soils with high NO3 -N after harvest can supply most of the nitrogen needed by the subsequent durum wheat crop. Consequently, a low response to N fertilization can be expected, especially taking into account that the low precipitation of the area does not favor leaching.

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Growing season inuenced grain yield differently at the two locations (Fig. 1). At Torregrossa the average grain yield was higher in 1995 (4181 kg ha1) than in 1996 (2422 kg ha1). The low yield in 1996 was probably due to very late seeding because of autumn rainfall. The possible effects of late seeding in the experiments were more detrimental to grain yield than those found by others (Ehdaie and Waines, 2001) in sowing date studies in durum wheat in California. At Bell-lloc, the grain yield was higher in 1996 (5730 kg ha1) than in 1995 (2776 kg ha1), probably because of lower winter and spring precipitation in 1995, and also the late sowing date. Variety also affected grain yield. Vitron showed a higher grain yield than Bolo in 1996 (6199 and 5245 kg ha1, respectively), but in 1995 Bolo showed a higher yield than Vitron at Bell-lloc (2598 and 2776 kg ha1, respectively). There were no differences at Torregrossa. These results suggest that even if the environmental effects (year, site and N fertilization) were the predominant factors in determining grain yield, it is also under genetic control. N fertilization increased spikes/m2 and kernels per spike at Torregrossa (Table 4), but led to a decrease in the TKW and specic weight. However, at Bell-lloc there was no signicant effect of N fertilization on spikes/m2, number of kernels per spike, TKW, specic weight or plant height, probably due to the high initial soil nitrogen content at this site. At Bell-lloc in 1995, with low grain yields, spikes/m2 and kernels per spike decreased with N fertilization. These results show that the increase in grain yield with N fertilization was mainly due to an increase in the spikes/m2 and in the kernels per spike, in agreement with previous work (Knapp and Harms, 1998), and that grain yield increases with N fertilization even if there is a decrease in the TKW and in the specic weight, as reported by other authors (Dexter et al., 1982). 3.2. Grain quality The average PC of the durum wheat in the trials was 14.4 and 15.6% at Torregrossa and Bell-lloc, respectively, which was appropriate for semolina production
Fig. 1. Effect of N fertilization on grain yield, grain protein and SDS. In two N treatments (150 and 200 uf), the N was applied at seeding (50 kg ha1), at the ag leaf stage (50 kg ha1 as a urea foliar spray) and the balance at tillering. In the last treatment (200 us), N was applied as mentioned in the preceding except that the 50 kg N ha1 ag leaf application was applied to the soil. Vertical bars indicate mean standard error of difference.

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according to industry standards (Ferret, 1996; Clarke, 2001). Only at Torregrossa, with no N or with N rates of 50 kg ha1, the quality obtained could be considered low. Durum wheat quality parameters (grain protein content, carotenoids, SDS and vitreousness) increased with N fertilization (Table 5 and Fig. 1) at Torregrossa. However, at Bell-lloc, quality parameters (except carotenoids) only increased signicantly in the 19951996 growing season, when higher grain yields were obtained. At this site, with initial amounts of N in the soil of 317 kg N ha1 in 1995, from 0 to 90 cm depth, and average grain yields of only 2687 kg ha1, the highest levels of quality were obtained without N application, probably due, as stated above, to the high soil nitrate content and low grain yields. Grain protein increases with increasing N fertilization rates were higher at Torregrossa than at Belllloc, probably because of the lower initial soil nitrate content at the rst location. At Torregrossa, PC increased from 12.7 to 15.6% in 1995 and from 12.4 to 14.9% in 1996 as a result of increasing N rates from 0 to 200 kg N ha1, whereas at Bell-lloc PC increased from 15.7 to 16.5% in 1995 and from 14.3 to 15.0% in 1996 with the same N rates. This result shows that the grain PC content of durum wheat increases with increasing N fertilization rates, even if no yield increase was observed. The PC contents obtained at Torregrossa were similar to the values at Bell-lloc only at the highest rates of N fertilizer. Bolo had a higher grain protein content than Vitron in two of the experiments (Torregrossa, 1996; Bell-lloc, 1995), while there were no signicant differences in the others. PC values changed according to the growing season and the location. Whereas at Torregrossa there were no differences between the two years studied, even if there were differences in grain yield, at Bell-lloc PC was lower in 1996 than in 1995. This is possibly due to the higher grain yield in 1996. The values obtained in Lleida are in the range of the average grain quality of most cultivated varieties in Spain, reported to be between 14 and 15% of PC (Royo et al., 1998; Rharrabti et al., 2001). Our PC increases were lower than the increases from 8.75 to 14.31% with N fertilization from 0 to 400 kg N ha1 reported by Robinson et al. (1979) in irrigated areas of Califor-

nia, where the average durum wheat yields were higher than 7000 kg ha1. The SDS volume sedimentation test increased signicantly at Torregrossa with increased N fertilization in both years of study. At Bell-lloc SDS increased in 1996 but not in 1995. Bolo showed a higher SDS than Vitron at both sites and in both years studied, possibly because this variety had a higher PC than Vitron. There were also signicant differences between the 2 years studied: in 1996 the SDS was higher than in 1995 but in 1995 PC it was higher than in 1996. This suggests that the amount of protein is not the only factor affecting quality of wheat, and that factors such as protein composition can also play a role. Some authors (Rharrabti et al., 2003b) have found an inverse relationship between PC and SDS, suggesting that increasing protein content could lead to a decrease in gluten strength and quality. Our results show that using an appropriate N management, PC and SDS can be increased simultaneously. Rharrabti et al. (2003b) suggest that effort might be concentrated on new genetic material with a good expression of both types of quality parameters, but our results show that both parameters (PC and SDS) can also be increased by N fertilization. The vitreousness obtained in the trials (Fig. 2) meets the quality standards for most commercial agreements, which is 80% (Mahaut, 1997). The quality is within the range of values produced by the most cultivated varieties in Spain, which is reported to be between 78 and 95% (Royo et al., 1998). Vitreousness, which is considered to be well correlated with PC (Gate, 1995; Rharrabti et al., 2003a), increased at Torregrossa from 77 to 97% in 1995 and from 61 to 93% in 1996 with increasing N rates from 0 to 200 kg N ha1. At Bell-lloc vitreousness only increased in 1996 and no increase was observed in 1995, when the average vitreousness percentage was as high as 98 (Fig. 2). The high soil nitrate content of this location could be the main reason for this lack of response to N fertilizer. In 1996, reports from a set of trials in different areas of Spain found vitreousness values of between 70 and 92%, although the average was about 89% (AETC, 1996). Other authors found an average of 98% in the same area (Rharrabti et al., 2003a). Carotenoids increased with N fertilization in both years and at both sites (Fig. 2). At Torregrossa,

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Fig. 2. Effect of N fertilization on carotenoids and vitreousness. In two N treatments (150 and 200 uf), the N was applied at seeding (50 kg ha1), at the ag leaf stage (50 kg ha1 as a urea foliar spray) and the balance at tillering. In the last treatment (200 us), N was applied as mentioned in the preceding except that the 50 kg N ha1 ag leaf application was applied to the soil. Vertical bars indicate mean standard error of difference.

pigment content increased from 4.8 to 5.1 ppm in 1995 and from 5.7 to 6.3 ppm in 1996 with increasing N rates from 0 to 200 kg N ha1. At Bell-lloc, carotenoids increased from 5.7 to 6.0 ppm in 1995 and from 6.2 to 6.5 ppm in 1996 with increasing N rates from 0 to 200 kg ha1. Carotenoids were higher at Bell-lloc than at Torregrossa, possibly because of the high soil nitrate content of this location. The values obtained in the experiment can be considered low (Jaby El-Haramein et al., 1998), and are lower than the average yellow pigment content of most cultivated varieties in Spain, reported to be between 7.5 and 8.4 ppm (Royo et al., 1998). The Bolo wheat had higher yellow pigments than Vitron in both years and at both sites. High yields did not decrease quality parameters, which suggests that, in the range of grain yields obtained, quality and yields can be increased at the same time. The only effect of the application of 50 kg N ha1 of foliar urea on quality parameters was the increase in the PC from 14.1 to 14.7 and 14.9 to 15.3% in one of the four trials (Torregrossa, 1996, the trial with the lowest average PC percentage). This suggests that the rates of N used in the experiments were too high to optimize the use of late foliar urea at the production or quality levels of these trials. Increases in grain protein

contents from 11.5 to 14.0 and 13.2 to 15.1% after the application of 67 kg N ha1 near anthesis, with grain yields of about 7000 kg ha1, were reported by Ottman et al. (2000) in Arizona. The results indicate that, in general, the responses of durum wheat to N fertilization were higher for the grain quality parameters (PC, carotenoids and vitreousness) than for the grain yield, giving a similar type of response to that of bread wheat (Lloveras et al., 2001). As reported in bread wheat, the yield and quality of the grain and their rates of response to N fertilization depended on the initial soil nitrate content, a factor that should be taken into account when one is fertilizing with N. The results also conrm the suitability of the Mediterranean climate for production of high quality durum wheat (high PC and vitreousness). The results also suggest that even if the quality of the varieties used in the experiments is high, the quality of the durum wheat produced can still be increased by adequate N fertilization. 3.3. Soil nitrate Soil nitrate levels after harvest differed between locations (Fig. 3 and Table 6). The average nitrate content was higher at Bell-lloc than at Torregrossa.

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Fig. 3. Effect of N fertilization on soil NO3 -N content (from 0 to 90 cm depth) after harvest and soil NO3 -N content remained in the soil before seeding the next crop. Vertical bars indicate mean standard error of difference.

At Bell-lloc the amounts of NO3 -N after harvest, from 0 to 90 cm depth, were very high, 532 and 368 kg N ha1 in 1995 and 1996, respectively. At Torregrossa they were 86 and 121 kg N ha1 in 1995 and 1996, respectively. N fertilization signi-

cantly increased soil nitrogen after harvest in both years and at both sites. At Bell-lloc NO3 -N increased from 238 to 645 kg N ha1 in 1995 and from 178 to 427 kg N ha1 in 1996 at the rate of 0200 kg N ha1, respectively. At Torregrossa, NO3 -N increased from 54 to 105 kg N ha1 in 1995 and from 91 to 140 kg N ha1 in 1996 at the rate of 0200 kg N ha1, respectively. This amount of NO3 -N present in the soil after harvest can be leached or can remain in the soil until the seeding of the next crop, depending on the climatic conditions. In our experiment, at seeding of the next crop (Fig. 3 and Table 6) soil NO3 -N levels were higher in the plots that had received higher amounts of N in the previous growing season, the only exception being at Bell-lloc in 1997. These results show that under Mediterranean conditions the residual soil NO3 -N after harvest can persist at least until the seeding of the next crop in autumn and can affect N fertilization recommendations, as suggested by other authors in similar areas (Sio et al., 2000). Gan et al. (2003) also report in durum wheat that crops grown in previous years affect the amount of residual soil nutrients available for subsequent plant growth. There was an increase in the soil NO3 -N content in the period from harvest to the seeding of the next crop at both locations and in both growing seasons (Fig. 3 and Table 6). The soil NO3 -N content at seeding of the following growing seasons was higher than after harvest, even at the rate of 0 kg N ha1, suggesting that N mineralization during summer may be important and may supply a large part of the N needed by the crop, even in soils with a low initial N content. On the other hand, at Bell-lloc, in the growing season 1995 1996 the soil NO3 -N content was higher at seeding than at harvest, probably because the rainfall in December and January was higher than average (Table 1). Consequently, there was leaching of N and in July 1996 little N was available for the next growing season (19961997). This leached N was probably lost and might increase the contamination of the drainage channels. In Mediterranean conditions, with variable rainfall conditions during the growing season, and according to our results, recommending N fertilization for durum wheat is not an easy task and it is advisable to analyze soil nitrogen not only before seeding but also during the growing season before the application of N fertilizer.

A. Abad et al. / Field Crops Research 87 (2004) 257269 Table 6 Statistical signicances for soil nitrate contents (NO3 -N) after harvest and at seeding of the next crop Treatments and statistics NO3 -N after harvest (kg ha1) 1995 Torregrossa Significance N V NV Bell-lloc Significance N V NV 1996 NO3 -N at seeding (kg ha1) 1996 1997

267

**

**

**

NSa NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

needed by the subsequent wheat crop, and consequently a low response to N fertilization can be expected. In particular, in soils with a high NO3 N content, N rates can be reduced almost to 0 kg N ha1. Rates of 100 kg N ha1 can be sufcient to obtain high grain yields and quality in soils with between 77 and 157 kg ha1 of NO3 -N. At the grain yield and quality levels reached in these experiments, late applications of foliar urea had almost negligible effect.

Acknowledgements
** ** ** *

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

NS NS

ANOVA over locations and years * Year (Y) ** Location (L) ** YL ** N V NS NY NS ** NL NV NS


a

** ** ** **

This research was supported by La Paeria (Lleida City Council) and by CICYT (Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology). We express our gratitude to M. Baga, A. Lopez, J. Del Campo, J. Millera, J. Betbese, R. Mestres and C. Royo for their eld, laboratory and technical assistance. References
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4. Conclusions This research shows that the quality of the durum wheat produced in irrigated Mediterranean areas of southern Europe is generally high, even at low rates of N application. The results also suggest that even with high quality durum wheat varieties, the quality of the grain produced can still be increased by adequate N fertilization, and even at low N rates. N fertilization increased durum wheat yields in soils with a low NO3 -N content but not in soils with a high NO3 -N content. However, N increased the quality in all trials, although at the risk of increasing the soil NO3 -N. Consequently, grain yield reached a plateau with lower applications of N than the quality parameters did. In the climatic conditions of the Ebro Valley, with low summer and winter rainfall, soils with high NO3 -N after harvest can supply most of the nitrogen

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