Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops

A special issue of Nitrogen (ISSN 2504-3129).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 February 2024) | Viewed by 9314

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Landwirtschaftliches Zentrum Baden Württemberg (LAZBW), Grünlandwirtschaft und Futterbau, 88326 Aulendorf, Germany
Interests: plant nutrition; legumes; soil science; pasture; clover; waste products; manure; protein production; fodder

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Nitrogen is an essential macronutrient that enables the high productivity of agricultural systems. Although a valuable resource, considerable losses of nitrogen can occur during the application of organic or inorganic nitrogen fertilizer as well as during the transformation of the nitrogen fertilizer in the soil. Besides the losses, due to leaching of nitrogen, causing ground- and surface water eutrophication, the atmospheric release of greenhouse gases from N fertilizers is becoming an increasing concern. Additionally, the production of nitrogen fertilizer is largely dependent on natural resources (oil and gas), which further contributes to the overall greenhouse gas emissions of agricultural systems. Integrating legumes, as an alternative source of nitrogen in the cropping system, could reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural systems. Since nitrogen fertilizer applications can affect plant growth locally as well as greenhouse gas balances globally, the use of nitrogen fertilizer in cropping systems needs to be assessed at various levels, ranging from growth parameters to greenhouse gas balances to multifunctional and lifecycle-type analyses.

Optimizing the use of mineral or organic N fertilizer in agricultural systems by reducing losses and including legumes thus includes a range of topics and interdisciplinary aspects, ranging from agronomy, soil chemistry, fertilizer technology, manure management, greenhouse gas balances and lifecycle analysis of cropping or pasture systems. 

This Special Issue will include the following topics:

  • Benefits of including legumes in crop rotation or pasture;
  • The use of legumes to reduce N fertilizer requirements;
  • Enhancing nitrogen fixation using legumes;
  • Precision farming and N fertilizer applications;
  • Nitrogen fertilizer placement or formulation;
  • Controlled release fertilizer;
  • Agronomic and environmental considerations in respect to setting optimum N application rates;
  • Assessments of greenhouse gas emissions due to N fertilizer applications;
  • Benefits and adverse effects of nitrogen fertilizer application in crop production and pastures through multifunctional analysis;
  • Organic fertilizer application and NH3 losses;
  • Assessments of N2O losses in various cropping or pasture systems;
  • Use of alternative sources of nitrogen such as biogas slurry from waste products or comparable products;
  • Optimizing nitrogen fertilization under variable climatic conditions

Dr. Karin Weggler
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

19 pages, 1201 KiB  
Article
Boosting Crop Growth Rates of Hybrid Rice (Pukhraj) through Synergistic Use of Organic Nitrogen Sources in Conjunction with Urea Nitrogen
by Amanullah and Hidayat Ullah
Nitrogen 2024, 5(1), 28-46; https://doi.org/10.3390/nitrogen5010003 - 22 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1234
Abstract
In Northwestern Pakistan’s rice-based cropping systems, the prevalent reliance on inorganic nitrogen fertilizers (INF) has led to insufficient nitrogen (N) contributions from soil organic manures (OM). This study aims to evaluate the impact of organic sources (OS), including animal manures (AM) and crop [...] Read more.
In Northwestern Pakistan’s rice-based cropping systems, the prevalent reliance on inorganic nitrogen fertilizers (INF) has led to insufficient nitrogen (N) contributions from soil organic manures (OM). This study aims to evaluate the impact of organic sources (OS), including animal manures (AM) and crop residues (CR), on crop growth rates (CGR) in a rice-wheat rotation. A two-year field experiment involving hybrid rice (Oryza sativa L., Pukhraj) was conducted in Batkhela, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Various OS and inorganic-N (urea) combinations were applied, emphasizing their influence on CGR. The findings highlight poultry manure (PM) application as the most impactful on CGR, while wheat straw (WS) application resulted in the lowest CGR among the six OS investigated. Additionally, the use of AM showcased superior CGR compared to CR. In the initial year, the highest CGR occurred, with 75% of N sourced from urea and 25% from OS. In the second year, a balanced 50% N application from each source yielded the highest CGR. Urea and PM demonstrated the most robust CGR among OS combinations, while urea and WS yielded the lowest. Notably, onion leaves, a cost-effective option, delivered promising results comparable to berseem residues, indicating their potential as organic manure, especially in sulfur-deficient soils. These findings underscore the viability of onion residue management as a cost-effective alternative to ammonium sulfate fertilizers with global applicability. The abstract recommends promoting organic sources, particularly poultry manure and onion leaves, alongside inorganic-N fertilizers to enhance CGR and reduce dependence on costly alternatives. However, further research and field trials are necessary to explore the long-term impacts of these organic sources on soil health, nutrient cycling, and the sustainability of rice-based cropping systems in Northwestern Pakistan and beyond. In conclusion, this study investigates the influence of organic sources on CGR in rice-wheat rotations, emphasizing the superiority of poultry manure and onion leaves. The findings highlight cost-effective alternatives to conventional fertilizers, emphasizing the need for further research to validate long-term sustainability and applicability beyond the study area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops)
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13 pages, 2803 KiB  
Article
Nitrogen Use Efficiency Using the 15N Dilution Technique for Wheat Yield under Conservation Agriculture and Nitrogen Fertilizer
by Hassnae Maher, Rachid Moussadek, Abdelmjid Zouahri, Ahmed Douaik, Nour Eddine Amenzou, Moncef Benmansour, Hamza Iaaich, Houria Dakak, Zineb El Mouridi, Abdelkbir Bellaouchou and Ahmed Ghanimi
Nitrogen 2023, 4(4), 369-381; https://doi.org/10.3390/nitrogen4040026 - 12 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1671
Abstract
Conservation agriculture (CA), which could contribute to sustainable agriculture, maintains or improves soil nitrogen fertility by eliminating tillage (no-tillage). Quantitative assessment of soil constituents is enhanced by stable isotope techniques such as 15N, which are used to better understand nitrogen dynamics. This [...] Read more.
Conservation agriculture (CA), which could contribute to sustainable agriculture, maintains or improves soil nitrogen fertility by eliminating tillage (no-tillage). Quantitative assessment of soil constituents is enhanced by stable isotope techniques such as 15N, which are used to better understand nitrogen dynamics. This study was therefore carried out to assess the impact of tillage type and fertilizer application on soil and plant nitrogen fractionation. The trial consisted of two tillage types: no-tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT). Three nitrogen doses (82, 115, and 149 kg ha−1) were applied. The experimental design was a randomized complete block with three replications. The Louiza variety of durum wheat was used in this study. Soil nitrogen sequestration was assessed using the stable nitrogen isotope (15N) method. The statistical analysis (ANOVA) showed that, overall, there was no significant difference between tillage types and nitrogen doses for grain and straw yields and grain total nitrogen. In contrast, the effect of both factors and their interaction were significant for straw total nitrogen. There was no difference between tillage types for grain nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), even though NT was superior to CT by 3.5%, but nitrogen doses had a significant effect and a significant interaction with tillage type. When comparing nitrogen doses for each tillage type separately, results showed that the average NUE for grain was 20.5, 8.4, and 16.5%, respectively, for the three nitrogen doses for CT compared with 26.8, 19.0, and 30.6% for NT, indicating clearly the better performance of NT compared to CT. Regarding straw, the NUE is 3.2, 3.5, and 5.4% for CT compared with 3.4, 4.9, and 9.2% for NT. NUE in grain and straw under no-tillage was higher than under conventional tillage in all three nitrogen doses. These results show that soil conservation techniques such as no-tillage and the integrated application of nitrogen fertilizer can be good strategies for reducing soil nitrogen losses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops)
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19 pages, 4106 KiB  
Article
Simulating Maize Response to Split-Nitrogen Fertilization Using Easy-to-Collect Local Features
by Léon Etienne Parent and Gabriel Deslauriers
Nitrogen 2023, 4(4), 331-349; https://doi.org/10.3390/nitrogen4040024 - 9 Nov 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1249
Abstract
Maize (Zea mays) is a high-nitrogen (N)-demanding crop potentially contributing to nitrate contamination and emissions of nitrous oxide. The N fertilization is generally split between sowing time and the V6 stage. The right split N rate to apply at V6 and [...] Read more.
Maize (Zea mays) is a high-nitrogen (N)-demanding crop potentially contributing to nitrate contamination and emissions of nitrous oxide. The N fertilization is generally split between sowing time and the V6 stage. The right split N rate to apply at V6 and minimize environmental damage is challenging. Our objectives were to (1) predict maize response to added N at V6 using machine learning (ML) models; and (2) cross-check model outcomes by independent on-farm trials. We assembled 461 N trials conducted in Eastern Canada between 1992 and 2022. The dataset to predict grain yield comprised N dosage, weekly precipitations and corn heat units, seeding date, previous crop, tillage practice, soil series, soil texture, organic matter content, and pH. Random forest and XGBoost predicted grain yield accurately at the V6 stage (R2 = 0.78–0.80; RSME and MAE = 1.22–1.29 and 0.96–0.98 Mg ha−1, respectively). Model accuracy up to the V6 stage was comparable to that of the full-season prediction. The response patterns simulated by varying the N doses showed that grain yield started to plateau at 125–150 kg total N ha−1 in eight out of ten on-farm trials conducted independently. There was great potential for economic and environmental gains from ML-assisted N fertilization. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops)
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10 pages, 621 KiB  
Article
Estimating Fertilizer Nitrogen-Use Efficiency in Transplanted Short-Day Onion
by Hanna Ibiapina de Jesus, Andre Luiz Biscaia Ribeiro da Silva, Kate Cassity-Duffey and Timothy Coolong
Nitrogen 2023, 4(3), 286-295; https://doi.org/10.3390/nitrogen4030021 - 15 Aug 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1270
Abstract
Efficient nitrogen (N) fertilizer applications in onion (Allium cepa L.) can reduce input costs and improve fertilizer-use efficiency, while maintaining high yields and quality. Understanding the N requirements of onion at different growth stages is necessary to enhance fertilizer N-use efficiency (FNUE). [...] Read more.
Efficient nitrogen (N) fertilizer applications in onion (Allium cepa L.) can reduce input costs and improve fertilizer-use efficiency, while maintaining high yields and quality. Understanding the N requirements of onion at different growth stages is necessary to enhance fertilizer N-use efficiency (FNUE). In a two-year study (2021 and 2022), the FNUE of onions was determined at five stages of development (at transplant, vegetative growth, bulb initiation, bulb swelling and bulb maturation). The FNUE was estimated by substituting a conventional N fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) with a 5% enriched 15N ammonium nitrate at a rate of 22.4 kg·ha−1 N, at one of five application times corresponding to a stage of development. All onions received a season total of 112 kg·ha−1 N. Marketable yield of onions was significantly greater in 2022 compared to 2021 and FNUE was affected by application timing in both years. In 2021, the FNUE at transplant was 8.9%, increasing to 26.4% and 35.28% at vegetative growth and bulb initiation stages, respectively. At bulb swelling and bulb maturation stages, FNUE was greater than 95%. In 2022, the FNUE at transplant was 25.2%. This increased to 75.7% and 103% at vegetative growth and bulb initiation stages, respectively. Results suggest that the application of fertilizer N at transplant is inefficient due to limited plant uptake ability, while N applications during bulb initiation and swelling were the most efficient. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops)
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15 pages, 1931 KiB  
Article
The Influence of Nitrogen Applications and Low Rainfall Conditions on Yield of Mixed Grass-Legume Grassland for 2 Years
by Karin Weggler and Martin Elsäßer
Nitrogen 2023, 4(2), 194-208; https://doi.org/10.3390/nitrogen4020013 - 28 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1386
Abstract
Mixed-species grassland containing legumes were suggested to increase yield compared to monocultures. Furthermore, some legumes were suggested to be able to sustain growth, even under drought conditions. The first aim of the current study was to measure if multispecies grassland with legumes is [...] Read more.
Mixed-species grassland containing legumes were suggested to increase yield compared to monocultures. Furthermore, some legumes were suggested to be able to sustain growth, even under drought conditions. The first aim of the current study was to measure if multispecies grassland with legumes is also more productive when their N input due to symbiotic N2 fixation is taken into account. Our second aim was to determine the benefit of grass–legume mixtures in terms of dry matter production under naturally occurring drought conditions. Mixed-species grasslands, consisting of monocultures and variable mixtures of (a) Trifolium pratense, (b) Trifolium. repens, (c) Lolium perenne, and (d) a mixture of drought-tolerant grasses (GSWT based), were assessed for their dry matter production over two years with contrasting weather patterns. The legume–grass seeding mixtures received either a fixed (180 kg N ha−1) or adapted N-fertilizer application (0–180 kg N ha−1), with the latter taking the assumed symbiotic N2 fixation by legumes into account. Mixed-species grassland showed improved yield compared to monocultures both in comparably humid and drought-affected years. The benefits of multispecies grass–legume mixtures were considerably more obvious under a fixed but still measurable under an adapted N-fertilizer regime. The species diversity effect appears to be significantly dependent on the additional N supply enabled by legumes’ symbiotic N2-fixation. Legumes and drought-tolerant grasses yielded equally well under drought conditions, although legumes showed major advantages during moderate drought and humid conditions. White and red clover, although both legumes, differed significantly in their persistence under elevated-N and their dry matter production under low-N fertilizer application, but were equal in their tolerance towards drought. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops)
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17 pages, 837 KiB  
Article
Soil Carbon and Nitrogen Forms and Their Relationship with Nitrogen Availability Affected by Cover Crop Species and Nitrogen Fertilizer Doses
by Lucas Boscov Braos, Roberta Souto Carlos, Aline Carla Trombeta Bettiol, Marina Ali Mere Bergamasco, Maira Caroline Terçariol, Manoel Evaristo Ferreira and Mara Cristina Pessôa da Cruz
Nitrogen 2023, 4(1), 85-101; https://doi.org/10.3390/nitrogen4010007 - 13 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1673
Abstract
Cover crops and N fertilization strongly impact the forms of soil organic C and N and their availability, which change the responses of plants to N fertilization and soil organic C accumulation. Our study objectives were to evaluate the effects of cover crops [...] Read more.
Cover crops and N fertilization strongly impact the forms of soil organic C and N and their availability, which change the responses of plants to N fertilization and soil organic C accumulation. Our study objectives were to evaluate the effects of cover crops and N doses on soil total and soluble C and N contents, N fractions, and potentially available N in a long-term no-till experiment. The experiment was conducted in a randomized block design with split plots and four replicates. The main treatments were cover crops species, jack bean, lablab bean, millet, velvet bean, and fallow cultivated prior to maize. Secondary treatments included two doses of mineral N (0 and 120 kg ha−1). Soil samples were collected at depths of 0–5, 5–10, 10–20, and 20–40 cm, which were analyzed for total and water-soluble C and N contents, N fractions (acid hydrolysis method), and potentially available N (hot KCl solution and direct steam distillation methods). Cover crop velvet bean resulted in the highest soil organic carbon levels, and cover crop millet plus fertilization resulted in the highest levels of soil total N. The amino sugar was the largest N fraction, which decreased by 8% with N fertilization. The soluble C and N content strongly correlated with total and available N content. The changes in soil N were influenced by cover crop species and fertilization and the interactions of both, so the combination of fertilization regime and cover crops must be chosen with care. Additionally, legumes are a good source of plant and soil N in systems with low input of N via fertilizer; however, the combination of N fertilizer with legumes can reduce soil N reserves, leading to its long-term depletion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimizing Fertilizer Nitrogen Use on Crops)
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