Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency for Cereal Production
- William R. Raun and
- Gordon V. Johnson
Worldwide, nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) for cereal production (wheat, Triticum aestivum L.; corn, Zea mays L.; rice, Oryza sativa L. and O. glaberrima Steud.; barley, Hordeum vulgare L.; sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench; millet, Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.; oat, Avena sativa L.; and rye, Secale cereale L.) is approximately 33%. The unaccounted 67% represents a $15.9 billion annual loss of N fertilizer (assuming fertilizer-soil equilibrium). Loss of fertilizer N results from gaseous plant emission, soil denitrification, surface runoff, volatilization, and leaching. Increased cereal NUE is unlikely, unless a systems approach is implemented that uses varieties with high harvest index, incorporated NH4-N fertilizer, application of prescribed rates consistent with in-field variability using sensor-based systems within production fields, low N rates applied at flowering, and forage production systems. Furthermore, increased cereal NUE must accompany increased yields needed to feed a growing world population that has yet to benefit from the promise of N2-fixing cereal crops. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) linked with advanced research programs at universities and research institutes is uniquely positioned to refine fertilizer N use in the world via the extension of improved NUE hybrids and cultivars and management practices in both the developed and developing world.
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