Mineral nitrogen (N) fertilization in cereals is commonly split into three or four applications. In order to simplify N fertilization, a single N application either broadcast or placed on the soil surface was compared to conventionally split fertilization for winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). The 4-year experiment (2007–2010) was performed using a participatory approach on farmers’ fields on deep loamy soils (Luvisols) in South-West Germany.
Grain yield and crude protein contents differed only slightly or not at all between treatments including different N fertilizer types (calcium ammonium nitrate, urea ammonium nitrate solution, urea) and application techniques (broadcast, placed). Furthermore, no differences were found for the yield components ears/m2 and thousand grain weight. Inorganic N in the soil profile after harvest was generally below 40 kg N/ha and did not differ between treatments. In the area where N was placed, mineral N was depleted during the vegetation period.
At the experimental sites a single N application in the period between tillering and stem elongation was sufficient to achieve high yield and quality of winter wheat without increased risk of nitrate leaching. This finding was independent of the method of application or the type of fertilizer.