The effect of level of N fertilizer on the composition, yield and quality of 21 crops was studied in experiments on adjacent sites of the same field to aid in the development of fertilizer recommendations.
Yield of each of the crops first increased and then either remained the same or declined with further increases of N fertilizer. Interpretation by means of a simple model enabled response curves to be characterized by two parameters; one representing the beneficial component of the response and the other the detrimental component. Both varied greatly from crop to crop.
The magnitude of the beneficial component of the response of most non-leguminous crops was largely determined by the potential demand of the crop for nitrogen; the exceptions were some root crops which responded less than would be expected on this basis. The adverse component was serious with root crops and those crops that are in the soil for only a short period. High levels of N increased the ratio of foliage to storage root dry weights even when total dry matter was unaffected. The changes were associated with a considerable increase in the % N in the dry matter of the roots.
When crops were grown with their optimum levels of N fertilizer a simple linear. relationship between the mean %N in the dry matter and the total weight of dry matter per unit area covered all crops. Simple relationships also existed between total dry matter of non-leguminous crops and (a) the amount of N taken up by the crop from unfertilized soil, (b) the recovery of added fertilizer by the crop and (c) the beneficial component of the response of crops harvested before October.
Percentage N in the dry matter at harvest was not a sensitive indicator of the extent to which plant growth was restricted by lack of nitrogen; a difference of 0·1% N in the plant material was associated with a 10% increase in yield.
N fertilizer levels influenced the % dry matter and the incidence of crop disorders such as rotten roots and tissue discoloration, but the effects were seldom appreciable with practicable levels of fertilizer application.
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