Characterizing corn (Zea mays L.) grain yield (GY) response to N is critical for maximizing profits, increasing N use efficiency and minimizing environmental impacts. Although a large database of GY response to N exists for highly productive soils, few data exist for less productive soils. While changes in precipitation are expected in the future, few studies have compared GY response to varying N management practices under conditions of varying water availability. We measured GY and basal stalk nitrate nitrogen (BSN) at harvest using split-applied urea at eight N rates under fully-irrigated (FI) and water-stressed (WS) conditions in a loamy sand over 2 yr (2009 and 2010). We also measured GY and BSN using single, pre-plant applications of urea, polymer-coated urea (PCU) and urea amended with urease and nitrification inhibitors (IU) at one or two N rates. The results showed that economic optimum nitrogen rate (EONR) and agronomic optimum nitrogen rate (AONR) did not vary by water management, in spite of significant increases in GY (up to 48%) under FIcompared to WS. Modification of N fertilizer timing or N source was effective for increasing GY (by 18–41%) with FI, but did not affect GY under WS conditions. Averaged across years, BSN was greater with WS compared to FIat most N rates; however, BSN corresponding to AONR was within the optimal range for both water regimes. These findings may have important implications in areas where changes in irrigation practices or water availability are expected under future climate conditions.
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© 2016 American Society of Agronomy.