Strengths and Limitations of Nitrogen Rate Recommendations for Corn and Opportunities for Improvement

Morris, Thomas
Murrell, T. Scott
Sawyer, John
Beegle, Douglas
Camberato, James
Ferguson, Richard
Grove, John
Ketterings, Quirine
Kyveryga, Peter
Laboski, Carrie
McGrath, Joshua
Meisinger, John
Melkonian, Jeff
Moebius-Clune, Bianca
Nafziger, Emerson
Osmond, Deanna
Sawyer, John
Scharf, Peter
Smith, Walter
Spargo, John
van Es, Harold
Yang, Haishun
Major Professor
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Organizational Unit
Journal Issue

Nitrogen fixation by the Haber–Bosch process has more than doubled the amount of fixed N on Earth, significantly influencing the global N cycle. Much of this fixed N is made into N fertilizer that is used to produce nearly half of the world’s food. Too much of the N fertilizer pollutes air and water when it is lost from agroecosystems through volatilization, denitrification, leaching, and runoff. Most of the N fertilizer used in the United States is applied to corn (Zea mays L.), and the profitability and environmental footprint of corn production is directly tied to N fertilizer applications. Accurately predicting the amount of N needed by corn, however, has proven to be challenging because of the effects of rainfall, temperature, and interactions with soil properties on the N cycle. For this reason, improving N recommendations is critical for profitable corn production and for reducing N losses to the environment. The objectives of this paper were to review current methods for estimating N needs of corn by: (i) reviewing fundamental background information about how N recommendations are created; (ii) evaluating the performance, strengths, and limitations of systems and tools used for making N fertilizer recommendations; (iii) discussing how adaptive management principles and methods can improve recommendations; and (iv) providing a framework for improving N fertilizer rate recommendations.


This article is published as Morris, T. F., T. S. Murrell, D. B. Beegle, J. J. Camberato, R. B. Ferguson, J. Grove, Q. Ketterings, P. M. Kyveryga, C. A.M. Laboski, J. M. McGrath, J. J. Meisinger, J. Melkonian, B. N. Moebius-Clune, E. D. Nafziger, D. Osmond, J. E. Sawyer, P. C. Scharf, W. Smith, J. T. Spargo, H. M. van Es, and H. Yang. 2018. Strengths and Limitations of Nitrogen Rate Recommendations for Corn and Opportunities for Improvement. Agron. J. 110:1-37. doi: 10.2134/agronj2017.02.0112.