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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #394092

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Cropping Systems on Spatially Variable Landscapes and Soils

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Title: Spatial and temporal factors impacting incremental corn nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency

item Kitchen, Newell
item Ransom, Curtis
item SCHEPERS, JAMES - Retired ARS Employee
item HATFIELD, JERRY - Retired ARS Employee
item MASSEY, RAYMOND - University Of Missouri
item DRUMMOND, SCOTT - Corteva Agriscience

Submitted to: International Conference on Precision Agriculture Abstracts & Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/14/2022
Publication Date: 6/24/2022
Citation: Kitchen, N.R., Ransom, C.J., Schepers, J.S., Hatfield, J.L., Massey, R.E., Drummond, S.T. 2022. Spatial and temporal factors impacting incremental corn nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency. Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Precision Agriculture, June 26-29, 2022, Minneapolis, Minnesota.Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: For maize (Zea mays L.), nitrogen (N) fertilizer use is often summarized from field to global scales using average N use efficiency (NUE). But expressing NUE as averages is misleading because grain increase to added N diminishes near optimal yield. We use empirical datasets obtained in North America of maize grain yield response to N fertilizer (n=189) to create and interpret incremental NUE (iNUE), or the change in NUE with change in N fertilization. For those last units of N applied to reach economic optimal N rate (EONR) iNUE for N removed with the grain is only about 6%. As N fertilizer costs increase relative to grain prices, this value increases, but remains under 10% using typical modern pricing. Results also showed iNUE decrease averaged 0.63% for medium-textured soils and 0.37% for fine-textured soils, attributable to fine-textured soils being more predisposed to denitrification and/or lower mineralization. Characteristics of iNUE were also shown to vary within fields. Further analysis demonstrated how critical growing-season water amount and distribution has on iNUE. Conditions with too much rainfall and/or uneven rainfall produced low iNUE. Producers realize this from experience, and it is uncertain weather that largely drives insurance fertilizer additions. Nitrogen fertilization creating low iNUE is environmentally challenging. Our results show that with modest sub-EONR fertilization and minor forgone profit, average NUE improvements of ~10% can be realized. Precision agriculture technologies may be the key for quantifying field and sub-field iNUE and implementing strategies for improving overall NUE.