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Minimizing nitrogen losses from a corn–soybean–winter wheat rotation with best management practices

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Abstract

Best management practices are recommended for improving fertilizer and soil N uptake efficiency and reducing N losses to the environment. Few year-round studies quantifying the combined effect of several management practices on environmental N losses have been carried out. This study was designed to assess crop productivity, N uptake from fertilizer and soil sources, and N losses, and to relate these variables to the fate of fertilizer 15N in a corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean (Glycine max L.)-winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) rotation managed under Best Management (BM) compared with conventional practices (CONV). The study was conducted from May 2000 to October 2004 at Elora, Ontario, Canada. Cumulative NO3 leaching loss was reduced by 51% from 133 kg N ha−1 in CONV to 68 kg N ha−1 in BM. About 70% of leaching loss occurred in corn years with fertilizer N directly contributing 11–16% to leaching in CONV and <4% in BM. High soil derived N leaching loss in CONV, which occurred mostly (about 80%) during November to April was attributable to 45–69% higher residual soil derived mineral N left at harvest, and on-going N mineralization during the over-winter period. Fertilizer N uptake efficiency (FNUE) was higher in BM (61% of applied) than in CONV (35% of applied) over corn and wheat years. Unaccounted gaseous losses of fertilizer N were reduced from 27% of applied in CONV to 8% of applied in BM. Yields were similar between BM and CONV (for corn: 2000 and 2003, wheat: 2002, soybean: 2004) or higher in BM (soybean: 2001). Results indicated that the use of judicious N rates in synchrony with plant N demand combined with other BMP (no-tillage, legume cover crops) improved FNUE by corn and wheat, while reducing both fertilizer and soil N losses without sacrificing yields.

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Acknowledgements

Primary funding for this research was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) and the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS). Sean Shaw, J.P. Bezeau, and Karen Clark provided invaluable field and laboratory assistance.

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Correspondence to Claudia Wagner-Riddle.

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Jayasundara, S., Wagner-Riddle, C., Parkin, G. et al. Minimizing nitrogen losses from a corn–soybean–winter wheat rotation with best management practices. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 79, 141–159 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-007-9103-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-007-9103-9

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