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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGICALLY-BASED SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Location: North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory

Title: Nitrogen Fertilizer Effects on Mineral Nutrient Synergism and Dilution Responses in Field Grown Corn

Author
item Riedell, Walter

Submitted to: Soil/Water Research, Progress Report
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: April 20, 2010
Publication Date: May 5, 2010
Citation: Riedell, W.E. 2010. Nitrogen Fertilizer Effects on Mineral Nutrient Synergism and Dilution Responses in Field Grown Corn. Soil and Water Annual Report #PR09-19. South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station.

Interpretive Summary: Nitrogen fertilizer is an important input for maize productivity. The economic cost of N fertilizer has risen dramatically over the past 6 years. If fertilizer prices continue to rise, application of N fertilizers at current rates could become economically unsustainable. As a result farmers may be under economic pressure to reduce application rates to maize. The experimental objectives were to investigate the impact of different levels of N fertilizer inputs on maize shoot growth and on maize shoot essential mineral element concentrations at different times during crop development. Because N is the most limiting factor for maize growth in many soils, the application of N fertilizer usually results in large increases in shoot dry weight. Unless accompanied by increased mineral absorption rates, N-fertilizer-induced increases in shoot DW may dilute the concentrations of other mineral elements in shoots. In the present study, as shoot DW increased with N fertilizer treatments, shoot concentrations of P and K decreased. Starter P and K fertilizers were applied in a band near the seed furrow. Thus these elements were readily available for root absorption, even in plants given no N fertilizer. A dilution effect for P and K likely took place as shoot DW increased in response to N fertilizer application. Conversely, if fertilizer N increases root growth as well as the volume of soil explored by roots, uptake of soil-immobile nutrient elements may increase. In the present study, N fertilizer application increased shoot DW and also increased shoot concentrations of N, Ca, and Mn. This synergistic response between DW accumulation and N, Ca, and Mn concentrations may have been the result of greater root growth and activity as N fertilizer was increased.

Technical Abstract: Differences in N fertilizer rates could have a major impact on the uptake of N as well as other essential mineral nutrients by maize (Zea mays L.). The effect of N fertilizer (8.5 or 5.3 Mg/ha yield goal, or no N) treatment on maize (Zea mays L.) shoot dry weight and mineral concentrations at the sixth leaf (V6), twelfth leaf (V12) and tassel (VT) development stages were investigated in a 2-yr study conducted at Brookings SD on a on Barnes loam soil. With increasing N fertilizer application rates, shoot DW was greater and shoot concentrations of N, Ca, and Mn increased. This synergistic response between DW accumulation and N, Ca, and Mn concentrations may have been the result of greater root growth and activity as N fertilizer was increased. Conversely, as shoot DW increased, shoot concentrations of P and K decreased. Starter P and K fertilizers were applied in a band near the seed furrow. Thus these elements were readily available for root absorption, even in plants given no N fertilizer. Thus a dilution effect for P and K took place as shoot DW increased in response to N fertilizer application.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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