Nitrogen fertilization strategies for improved Mediterranean rainfed wheat and barley performance and water and nitrogen use efficiency

Daniel Plaza-Bonilla, Jorge Lampurlanés, Fabián G. Fernández, Carlos Cantero-Martínez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Adequate fertilization strategies are paramount to fulfill increasing demands for food, feed and fiber while reducing environmental impacts. However, their optimization under Mediterranean no-till systems has received little attention. The objective of this work was to assess winter cereal yield and water and N use efficiencies in a rainfed semiarid Mediterranean climate under (i) a range of pre-plant fertilizers [control without N fertilizer (0 N), and the following at 75 kg N ha−1: mineral N (MIN), swine slurry (SS), poultry manure (PM), and compost (COM)], (ii) fertilizer incorporation: no-tillage without incorporating (NT) or incorporation with a vibrocultivator (INC) and (iii) application of urea-ammonium nitrate solution (UAN) as top-dress as a control without UAN (UAN-) or 50 kg N ha−1 (UAN+). The experiment covered six cropping seasons (2012–2019). Pre-plant applications had similar responses in crop yield, biomass, N uptake, grain N, water-use efficiency for biomass (WUEb), and water-use efficiency for yield (WUEy) but were greater than 0 N. The lack of differences between pre-plant fertilizers would be explained by the high amount of residual N and the mineralized N during the crop cycle. Top-dress UAN increased WUEy and crop yield in all the cropping seasons by an average of 587 kg grain ha−1, which represented 18 % of the total annual production. Averaged across variables and the growing seasons, INC reduced soil water content and WUEb by 10 % (from 24.3 to 21.8 kg ha−1 mm−1). Also, INC reduced grain yield by 9% (from 3799 to 3450 kg ha−1) by reducing the number of spikes m-2 produced, pointing out that INC resulted in water deficit during the early reproductive period of the crop. While INC is often consider a best management practice to reduce NH3 volatilization losses from broadcast fertilizer applications, the results demonstrate that in rainfed Mediterranean agroecosystems water is more limiting than the N that could be potentially lost by volatilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126238
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Volume124
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Javier Bareche, Silvia Mart? and Carlos Cort?s for their technical assistance and Albareda family for their willingness to collaborate with on-farm experiments. Daniel Plaza-Bonilla is Ram?n y Cajal fellow (RYC-2018-024536-I) co-funded by AEI-MICIU and European Social Fund. This research was supported by the AGL2010-22050-C03-01, AGL2013-49062-C4-1-R and AGL2017-84529-C3-3-R grants of the Spanish National Plan of Research.

Funding Information:
We thank Javier Bareche, Silvia Martí and Carlos Cortés for their technical assistance and Albareda family for their willingness to collaborate with on-farm experiments. Daniel Plaza-Bonilla is Ramón y Cajal fellow (RYC-2018-024536-I) co-funded by AEI-MICIU and European Social Fund . This research was supported by the AGL2010-22050-C03-01 , AGL2013-49062-C4-1-R and AGL2017-84529-C3-3-R grants of the Spanish National Plan of Research .

Keywords

  • Fertilizer incorporation
  • No-tillage
  • Organic fertilizers
  • Top-dress fertilization
  • Water limitation

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