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Corn Yield Response to Nitrogen Fertilizer and Irrigation in the Southeastern Coastal Plain

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Availability of spatially-indexed data and crop yield maps has caused increased interest in site-specific management of crop inputs, especially water and fertilizer. As commercial equipment to implement site-specific applications of water and nutrients becomes available, crop response to variable inputs and decision support systems will be required to ensure profitable crop production while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment. The objective of this research was to determine corn yield response to a range of nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation amounts on a relatively uniform southeastern Coastal Plain soil under conservation tillage. Corn was grown in a field experiment using a center pivot irrigation system that had been modified to make site-specific applications of water and fertilizer during the period 1999-2001 on a site near Florence, South Carolina. Treatments included three antecedent crop rotations (prior four years), three irrigation regimes (0, 75%, and 150% of a base rate, IBR), and four nitrogen fertilizer amounts (50%, 75%, 100%, and 125% of a base rate, NBR), and with four replications. As expected, corn grain yields increased with irrigation and N fertilizer. Mean corn grain yields for the three-year study ranged from 6.3 to 8.9 Mg/ha for the 0% IBR treatment, 9.4 to 10.5Mg/ha for the 75% IBR treatment, and 10.0 to 10.6 Mg/ha for the 150% IBR treatment. The mean corn grain yields in response to N applications ranged from 6.4 to 8.0 Mg/ha for the 50% NBR treatment, 8.6 to 9.4 Mg/ha for the 75% NBR treatment, 9.1 to 10.9 Mg/ha for the 100% NBR treatment, and 8.8 to 11.7 for the 125% NBR treatment. However, the nature of the response varied among the three years, mainly because of differences in rainfall and rainfall distribution during the growing season. Also, during the first year, there was less response to N fertilizer (7.9 to 9.1 Mg/ha) possibly because of residual soil N from antecedent soybean crop. A regression analysis indicated that the slopes of the corn yield response to increased N fertilizer application were low for both irrigated and rainfed treatments in 1999. In both 2000 and 2001, the slopes were greater for the corn yield response to increased N fertilizer. In 2000, the irrigated treatments had a greater slope of the yield response for additional N fertilizer than did the rainfed treatments. Using an orthogonal contrast analysis, the overall yield response for the combined irrigation treatments to N fertilizer was quadratic in 1999 and 2000, and linear in 2001. These quadratic yield responses indicated that, for these conditions, a potential upper limit on production for the applied N-fertilizer and water (rainfall and irrigation) was approached. For the rainfed treatment, yield response to N fertilizer was linear in all three years. These results provide useful information that should be helpful in developing management strategies and decision support systems for profitable management of both water and N fertilizer on spatially-variable soils in the southeastern Coastal Plain while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment.
Stone, K.C. , Camp, C.R. , Sadler, E.J. , Evans, D.E. , Millen, J.A.
Zea mays , crop yield , nitrogen fertilizers , irrigation , coastal plains , precision agriculture , conservation tillage , field experimentation , crop rotation , irrigation rates , fertilizer rates , soybeans , slope , corn , grain yield , spatial variation , decision support systems , profitability , center pivot irrigation , rain , temporal variation , soil fertility , rainfed farming , South Carolina
p. 429-438.
Includes references
Applied engineering in agriculture 2010, v. 26, no. 3
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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