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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 48 No. 6, p. 1301-1304
    Received: Feb 23, 1984
    Accepted: July 11, 1984

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A Soil Test for Nitrogen Availability to Corn1

  1. F. R. Magdoff,
  2. D. Ross and
  3. J. Amadon2



A soil test for N availability to corn (Zea mays L.), NO-3- to 30cm when plants are 15 to 30 cm tall, was evaluated on a wide range of soils at 33 locations in Vermont and one in New York state. The NO-3-N present at the time of sampling is a result of an integration of all the soil and weather factors that have influenced the availability of N prior to the time for sidedress fertilizer application. There was a typical response relationship between soil test NO-3-N and corn silage yield on plots that only received limited amounts of starter N fertilizer at planting. The Cate-Nelson procedure for NO-3-N vs relative yield (yield without sidedress N/yield with sidedress N) indicated that there was a greater probability of response to N fertilizer when NO-3-N was less than 36 kg ha−1 than at higher soil test values. The currently used N fertilizer recommendation procedure is based on estimates derived from cropping history, yield goal, soil type, and manure management information provided by farmers. Compared with the current method of estimating N fertilizer needs, recommendations based on the NO-3-N soil test call for much less N fertilizer application and are more accurate in separating sites with varying response probabilities. As a routine laboratory procedure, the proposed test has numerous advantages over other N availability procedures. However, special procedures are needed, including rapid soil treatment after sampling (to eliminate N transformations), sampling the soil at a different time than for the usual soil test, and a rapid sample turnaround time in the laboratory.

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