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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 103 No. 5, p. 1346-1351
    Received: Mar 27, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): lgbundy@wisc.edu
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Long-Term Continuous Corn and Nitrogen Fertilizer Effects on Productivity and Soil Properties

  1. Larry G. Bundy *,
  2. Todd W. Andraski,
  3. Matthew D. Ruark and
  4. Arthur E. Peterson
  1. Dep. of Soil Science, 1525 Observatory Dr., Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706


There are uncertainties about the sustainability of long-term monoculture and N fertilizer use in corn (Zea mays L.) production. This paper examines the effects of 50 yr (1958–2007) of continuous corn and N fertilizer use on corn yield, N use efficiency, soil pH, and organic matter content. Corn was harvested for grain with residues returned annually since 1958 on a Plano silt loam soil (fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Typic Argiudolls) near Arlington, WI (43°18’ N; 89°21’ W). The experimental design includes three N fertilizer rates (currently 0, 140, and 280 kg N ha−1) and two lime treatments (imposed in 1985) with four replications. Soil pH and organic matter content were measured periodically during the experiment. Average corn yields in N fertilized treatments increased dramatically (100%) over time with some of the highest yields occurring in the most recent years. Apparent N use efficiency (kg grain kg−1 N fertilizer) also increased over time, thus higher yields in recent years have not required greater N fertilizer use. Results suggest that both hybrid genetic improvement and improved management techniques contributed to the long-term yield gain. Soil organic matter content was maintained or increased with long-term N additions, and since 1985, lime treatments increased yields in 14 of 23 yr. Increasing productivity and N use efficiency along with stable or increasing soil organic matter suggest that long-term continuous corn and N fertilizer use are sustainable practices. No evidence of a decline in productivity from long-term corn monoculture or N fertilizer use was detected.

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