Nitrogen is essential to plant growth in the form of photosynthesis. The three nitrogen ions that are found in soils are nitrite (NO2-), Nitrate (NO3-), and Ammonia (NH4+). This project will be looking at nitrate and nitrite only. A typical farmland soil is depleted of most of its nitrogen after the crop has been harvested. A typical non-disturbed field, i.e. prairie, has a generally higher nitrate and nitrite ion concentration. One main problem with constantly planting the same crop in soil year after year; is that denitrifcation, or extreme nitrogen depletion, occurs. To counteract the denitrification the majority of farmers apply nitrogen to their soil, so their crops can carry out photosynthesis effectively. Corn, for an example, pulls large amounts of nitrogen out of the soil in order to complete photosynthesis. The type of soil studied in this project is Hord silt loam, which is commonly found in Kansas. The field of interest is found on the Bethel College campus north of 24th street and west of the walking path that runs along the parking lot next to Warkentin court. Soil samples were taken from the prairie in which the last corn crop was planted in 2006. In March of 2007 a prairie was planted using a variety of natural prairie seeds commonly found in Kansas prairies, using five different seed schemes. Soil samples were obtained in early March 2010. The concentration of nitrate and nitrite were found by using the process of ion chromatography. Nitrate had a similar concentration to that of a non-disturbed field, which supported the hypothesis; the Prairie Restoration Project is allowing the soil to maintain a higher nitrate ion concentration.
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