Site-specific application of nitrogen (N) to maize (Zea mays L.) may provide economic and environmental benefits. Variations in soil drainage and texture within fields are often believed to cause localized differences in soil N availability and therefore are a potential basis for site-specific N fertilizer application. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of imposed variations in drainage conditions in two soils on early season soil water conditions, soil nitrate levels, and crop response to N fertilizer. Maize was grown for three years following conversion from sod. Two soil drainage regimes and three N rates (22, 100 and 134 kg ha−1) were experimentally imposed on plots on two soil types, a clay loam and a loamy sand. Soil water potential and soil nitrate content were intensively monitored for the 0–150 and 150–300 mm soil layers during the early growing season. Early season soil water potentials showed small effects of drainage variability at the 75 and 225 mm depths. However, the clay loam soil experienced prolonged periods of saturation after significant precipitation, while the loamy sand never experienced such conditions. Soil nitrate levels were strongly affected by cropping history, but were also subjected to losses as a result of precipitation and short-term soil saturation. Maize N response was minimally affected by differences in soil drainage conditions in all 3 years. In years with a wet spring, justification exists for higher N fertilizer rates on finer-textured soils. This study therefore showed only moderate potential for varying N application within fields based on soil type and drainage conditions, but suggests that seasonal differences in N dynamics greatly affect maize N response.
Precision Agriculture – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 1, 2005
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