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Exploring the spatial variation in the fertilizer-nitrogen requirement of wheat within fields

  • D. R. KINDRED (a1), A. E. MILNE (a2), R. WEBSTER (a2), B. P. MARCHANT (a3) and R. SYLVESTER-BRADLEY (a1)...


The fertilizer-nitrogen (N) requirement for wheat grown in the UK varies from field to field. Differences in the soil type, climate and cropping history result in differences in (i) the crops’ demands for N, (ii) the supply of N from the soil (SNS) and (iii) the recovery of the fertilizer by the crops. These three components generally form the basis of systems for N recommendation. Three field experiments were set out to investigate the variation of the N requirement for wheat within fields and to explore the importance of variation in the crops’ demands for N, SNS and fertilizer recovery in explaining the differences in the economic optima for N. The N optima were found to vary by >100 kg N/ha at two of the sites. At the other site, the yield response to N was small. Yields at the optimum rate of N varied spatially by c. 4 t/ha at each site. Soil N supply, which was estimated by the unfertilized crops’ harvested N, varied spatially by 120, 75 and 60 kg/ha in the three experiments. Fertilizer recovery varied spatially from 30% to >100% at each of the sites. There were clear relationships between the SNS and the N optima at all the three sites. The expected relationship between the crop's demand for N and N optima was evident at only one of the three sites. There was no consistent relationship between the N recovery and the N optima. A consistent relationship emerged, however, between the optimal yield and SNS; areas with a greater yield potential tending to also supply more N from the soil. This moderated the expected effect of the SNS and the crop's demand for N on the N optima.


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