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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 97 No. 2, p. 391-398
     
    Received: Apr 12, 2004


    * Corresponding author(s): schlegel@ksu.edu
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doi:10.2134/agronj2005.0391

Challenging Approaches to Nitrogen Fertilizer Recommendations in Continuous Cropping Systems in the Great Plains

  1. Alan J. Schlegel *a,
  2. Cynthia A. Grantb and
  3. John L. Havlinc
  1. a Southwest Res.-Ext. Cent., Kansas State Univ., Tribune, KS 67879
    b Agric. and Agri-Food Canada, Brandon Res. Cent., Brandon, MB
    c Dep. of Soil Sci., North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, NC

Abstract

Cropping systems in the Great Plains have evolved over the past two decades from reliance on summer fallowing to continuous cropping under reduced or no-tillage. Most N recommendation models were developed in fallow systems under conventional tillage and were based on average yield goal, with adjustments for soil profile N content. The objective of this review is to examine the impact of continuous cropping on N requirements. With high-residue continuous cropping systems, N requirements may increase because of increased annualized production, reduced contribution of N mineralization, and increased immobilization and volatilization potential of surface-applied fertilizer N. Mitigating these effects on N availability and supplemental N requirements are the reduction in yield per crop, reduced nitrate (NO3) leaching potential, increased N use efficiency (NUE), and increased rates of N mineralization due to higher soil organic matter (OM) content. Unfortunately, increased year-to-year yield variability with continuous cropping increases the difficulty in accurately estimating yield goals. Also, reducing the frequency and duration of fallow may reduce the usefulness of the preplant soil N tests in estimating N availability. Recent research has evaluated the use of optical sensors during the growing season to assess N stress and to estimate crop N requirements. If proved feasible for many crops, this would provide a drastic change for determining N recommendations. In the absence of a reasonable yield goal and known residual soil N content, a fertilizer N rate near 70 kg N ha−1 or less was generally sufficient to optimize small-grain or oilseed yields in several continuous cropping studies.

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