Urea Fertilizer Placement Impacts on Corn Growth and Nitrogen Utilization in a Poorly-Drained Claypan Soil

Frank E. Johnson II, Kelly A. Nelson, Peter P. Motavalli


Practices to increase nitrogen (N) use efficiency (NUE) include selecting appropriate N fertilizer sources and application methods, but minimal research has focused on these practices in poorly-drained claypan soils which are prone to N loss. This research assessed the impact of different urea fertilizer placement practices on corn (Zea mays L.) production and N utilization in a poorly-drained claypan soil. Field trials were conducted in 2014 and 2015 in Missouri. Treatments consisted of pre-plant deep banding (20 cm) urea at 202 kg N ha-1 or urea plus a nitrification inhibitor (NI) (nitrapyrin) compared to pre-plant urea broadcast surface-applied or incorporated to a depth of 8 cm. In 2014, incorporating urea, deep banding urea, and deep banding urea plus NI had higher yields (> 10%) of corn compared to the control with grain yields ranging from 13.73 to 14.05 Mg ha-1. In 2015, grain yields were lower than in 2014, ranging from 4.1 to 7.9 Mg ha-1. Deep placing banded urea with a NI yielded an increase in grain yield up to 48% compared to the other treatments. Rainfall amounts were higher in 2015, which could have resulted in poorer root growth and greater N loss in deep banded treatments. In 2014, deep banding urea with a NI produced the highest NUE. Similar to NUE, silage tissue N concentrations in 2014 were greater with deep banded urea plus NI, while in 2015 silage tissue N concentrations were higher with surface applied urea. The results suggest that urea fertilizer incorporation including deep banding may improve corn grain production, N uptake, and NUE, but response was affected by climatic conditions. The addition of an NI may be an important safeguard when deep banding urea in years with excessive precipitation.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v9n1p28

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