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Spatial variation in Nitrogen requirements of cereals, and their interpretation

  • D. R. Kindred (a1), R. Sylvester-Bradley (a1), A. E. Milne (a2), B. Marchant (a3), D. Hatley (a4), S. L. Kendall (a5), S. Clarke (a5), K. Storer (a6) and P. M. Berry (a6)...

A range of precision farming technologies are used commercially for variable rate applications of nitrogen (N) for cereals, yet these usually adjust N rates from a pre-set value, rather than predicting economically optimal N requirements on an absolute basis. This paper reports chessboard experiments set up to examine variation in N requirements, and to develop and test systems for its prediction, and to assess its predictability. Results showed very substantial variability in fertiliser N requirements within fields, typically >150 kg ha−1, and large variation in optimal yields, typically >2 t ha−1. Despite this, calculated increases in yield and gross margin with N requirements perfectly matched across fields were surprisingly modest (compared to the uniform average rate). Implications are discussed, including the causes of the large remaining variation in grain yield, after N limitations were removed.

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