Corn response to nitrogen is influenced by soil texture and weather
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Soil properties and weather conditions are known to affect soil N availability and plant N uptake; however, studies examining N response as affected by soil and weather sometimes give conflicting results. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for estimating treatment effects in a series of experiments to explain the sources of heterogeneity. In this study, the technique was used to examine the influence of soil and weather parameters on N response of corn (Zea mays L.) across 51 studies involving the same N rate treatments that were performed in a diversity of North American locations between 2006 and 2009. Results showed that corn response to added N was significantly greater in fine-textured soils than in medium-textured soils. Abundant and well-distributed rainfall and, to a lesser extent, accumulated corn heat units enhanced N response. Corn yields increased by a factor of 1.6 (over the unfertilized control) in medium-textured soils and 2.7 in fine-textured soils at high N rates. Subgroup analyses were performed on the fine-textured soil class based on weather parameters. Rainfall patterns had an important effect on N response in this soil texture class, with yields being increased 4.5-fold by in-season N fertilization under conditions of "abundant and well-distributed rainfall." These findings could be useful for developing N fertilization algorithms that would prescribe N application at optimal rates taking into account rainfall pattern and soil texture, which would lead to improved crop profitability and reduced environmental impacts.
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