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Agronomy Journal Abstract - Nitrogen Management

Assessment of Cereal Nitrogen Requirements Derived by Optical On-the-Go Sensors on Heterogeneous Soils


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 98 No. 3, p. 682-690
    Received: Sept 2, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): graeff@uni-hohenheim.de
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  1. Erik Zillmanna,
  2. Simone Graeff *a,
  3. Johanna Linka,
  4. William David Batchelorb and
  5. Wilhelm Claupeina
  1. a Institute of Crop Production and Grassland Research (340), Univ. of Hohenheim, Fruwirthstr. 23, D-70599 Stuttgart, Germany
    b Mississippi State Univ., Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Howell Hall, P.O. Box 9632, Mississippi State, MS 39762


Variable N management is one of the most promising practices of precision agriculture to optimize nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE) and decrease environmental impact of agriculture. The objective of this study was to test the performance of fertilization in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and triticale (Triticosecale Wittm.) determined by reflection measurements of on-the-go sensors under heterogeneous field conditions. In 2004 geo-referenced yield and N fertilization data were collected in four heterogeneous fields in southern Germany. Nitrogen demand of plants was determined throughout the growing season and the corresponding amount of N fertilizer was broadcast with the N-Sensor (Yara, Germany) in real-time. The sensor uses the red edge position (720–740 nm) as an indicator of crop N status and relates this to crop N demand. The sensor algorithm is designed to stimulate plant growth in areas with low biomass and reduce risk of lodging in areas with high biomass. Fertilization was evaluated by calculating site-specific N balance maps to delineate zones with N surplus in the soil. The results revealed some general limitations of this sensor approach in areas with yield-limiting factors other than N. Nitrogen surplus above 50 kg ha−1 was calculated for subfield areas dominated by shallow soils. The results of this study indicated that sensor-based measurements can be used efficiently for variable N application in cereal crops when N is the main growth-limiting factor. However, the causes for variability must be adequately understood before sensor-based variable rate fertilization can safely be used to optimize N side-dressing in cereals.

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