In 1992 and 1993, eight rates of 15N-labelled fertilizer (0–245 kg ha−1) were applied to winter wheat growing on the Ropsley long term field trial where eight different N amounts had been applied annually since 1978. The fate of the labelled N in the crop and topsoil (0–23 cm) was determined at harvest in the year of 15N application and in the first and second residual years.
By harvest in the second residual year, 60–77% of the original labelled application had been recovered in the crop and topsoil with 23–40% lost. These losses virtually all occurred within the first two growing seasons; there was no significant loss during the second residual year. Significant changes in the 15N balance were observed at N applications in excess of the range 140–175 kg ha−1 which suggested a marked decrease in the efficiency of N use and an increase in residual labile N in the soil at harvest. At low N applications (<175 kg ha−1), a positive added nitrogen interaction (ANI) was observed: 40–50% of this was a residual ANI due to the short or long term effect of applying N fertilizer, and the remainder was probably an apparent ANI due to pool substitution in the immobilization process. At large N applications (>175 kg ha−1) a negative ANI was observed: large N applications resulted in a net suppression of soil N uptake due to substitution by fertilizer for a limited plant N demand.