Impact of Fertilizer Application Timing on Drainage Nitrate Levels

Christianson, Reid
Helmers, Matthew
Pederson, Carl
Lawlor, Peter
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Nitrate loss from drainage systems in Iowa and other upper Midwestern states is a concern relative to local water supplies as well as the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, there is a need to quantify how various nitrogen management practices impact nitrate loss. One practice that is commonly mentioned as a potential strategy to reduce nitrate loss is to vary fertilizer application timing and specifically apply nitrogen as close to when the growing crop needs it as possible. At a site in Gilmore City, Iowa, a number of fertilizer timing and rate schemes within a corn soybean rotation were used to study the impacts on nitrate leaching. Timing schemes include nitrogen application in the fall and an early season sidedress in the spring with each scheme having four replicates for both corn and soybeans. Fertilizer application rates investigated are 84 and 140 kg/ha (75 and 125 lb/ac) in the fall and 84 and 140 kg/ha (75 and 125 lb/ac) in the spring. The timing and rates have been practiced since 2005 with contrasting weather conditions each year. Overall, an annual basis there was not significant differences in nitrate concentrations or loss exiting the drainage system between the application rates or between the fall and spring application. In addition, there was not a yield penalty to the corn crop when fertilizer as applied in the fall versus the spring.


This is an ASABE Meeting Presentation, Paper No. 096246.

Subsurface drainage, nitrate, application rate, corn, soybean