Survey of nitrogen fertilizer use on corn in Minnesota

Peter M. Bierman, Carl J. Rosen, Rodney T. Venterea, John A. Lamb

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53 Scopus citations


A survey was conducted in the spring of 2010 to characterize the use of nitrogen (N) fertilizer on corn (Zea mays L.) by Minnesota farmers in the 2009 growing season. Detailed information on synthetic N fertilizer management practices was collected from interviews with 1496 farmers distributed across all of the corn growing regions in the state. The total amount of corn they grew represented 6.8% of the ha of corn harvested in Minnesota in 2009. This report summarizes data on: (1) N fertilizer rates, (2) major N sources (excluding manures), (3) application timing of the major N source, (4) use of nitrification inhibitors, additives, and specialty N fertilizer formulations, (5) fertilizer placement and incorporation practices, (6) use of starter fertilizer, split and sidedress applications, and other N sources such as ammonium phosphates, (7) N fertilization of irrigated corn, and (8) use of soil testing as a fertility management tool. Many of the survey results are reported as statewide averages, but where regional differences occurred the data are broken down and presented separately for different parts of the state. This survey provides the most comprehensive set of data on N fertilizer use on corn that has been collected in Minnesota. The information can be used to target research and education programs to improve N management for both production and environmental goals. The statewide average N fertilizer rate was 157kgNha-1. Variable rate application was used to apply N by 23% of farmers. About 59% of surveyed farmers applied the majority of their N fertilizer in the spring before planting, 32.5% made their main N application in the fall, and 9% sidedressed the majority of their N after corn emergence. Most farmers used anhydrous ammonia (46%) or urea (45%) as their major source of N fertilizer, while 6.5% used a liquid N formulation as their primary N source. Soil testing was used as a fertility management tool on 84% of the surveyed fields in the last 5years. Overall results indicate that N fertilizer use by Minnesota corn farmers is generally consistent with University of Minnesota Extension N management guidelines. Fertilizer N use could probably be improved by taking adequate N credit for previous soybean crops. In the South Central region of the state, fertilizer N recovery could potentially be improved by increased use of nitrification inhibitors with fall-applied anhydrous ammonia or by delaying anhydrous ammonia application until spring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalAgricultural Systems
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this Project was provided by: (1) National Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2009-55112-05216 from the USDA CSREES/NIFA Air Quality Program, and (2) The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) using money provided by the Clean Water Fund (from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment). Denton Breuning of MDA provided support processing and organizing survey data. The survey was conducted by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Minnesota Field Office.


  • Fertilizer N recovery
  • N application rates
  • N application timing
  • N fertilizer
  • N management
  • Nitrification inhibitors


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