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Crop yield and nitrogen concentration with controlled release urea and split applications of nitrogen as compared to non-coated urea applied at seeding

Grant, C.A., Wu, R., Selles, F., Harker, K.N., Clayton, G.W., Bittman, S., Zebarth, B.J., Lupwayi, N.Z. (2012). Crop yield and nitrogen concentration with controlled release urea and split applications of nitrogen as compared to non-coated urea applied at seeding, 127 170-180.


Controlled release urea (CRU) has been shown to improve nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency in a number of production systems. However, the effectiveness of CRU will be strongly affected by the environmental conditions of the region. Research trials were conducted at five locations across four major ecoregions spanning 1600. km across the Northern Great Plains and Pacific Maritimes of North America from 2004 to 2006 to evaluate the effects of a single application of polymer-coated urea (CRU) or split applications of urea fertilizer as compared with non-coated urea for their effects on crop growth, crop N concentration, and crop N accumulation of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), barley (Hordeum vulagre L.) canola (Brassica napus L.) and corn (Zea mays L.) across a wide range of environmental conditions. Urea applied as an in-soil band at the time of seeding was generally as or more effective than similarly placed CRU, split application of urea or blended urea and CRU in the semi-arid Mixed Grassland, moist Aspen Parkland or wet Boreal Transition ecoregions in increasing early season dry matter yield and seed or grain yield of canola, wheat or barley. Similarly, broadcast urea was as or more effective than broadcast CRU, split applications or blended applications in increasing corn dry matter yield under the wet conditions in the Lower Mainland ecoregion. There were some situations where use of split applications or use of the CRU in a blend with the non-coated urea resulted in increases in grain yield as compared to the non-coated urea, primarily under moist conditions in the Boreal Transition or Aspen Parkland ecoregions. Some yield losses occurred from use of the CRU as compared with the non-coated urea and were attributed to delays in release of N from the granule that limited early season N availability and crop growth, especially in corn with a high N demand. Effects on grain N concentration and accumulation of N in the crop at harvest were mixed, with the CRU, blended applications of CRU and urea or split applications occasionally producing higher grain N concentration and N accumulation in the crop than the non-coated urea. Benefits of CRU on grain N concentration were more frequent than benefits on grain yield, but were not large or consistent. Response of crop growth and N uptake to N management was generally similar under CT and RT, with occasional differences occurring due to changes in yield potential or N deficit associated with the differences in tillage management. Therefore, under growing conditions across a wide range of ecoregions in the Northern Great Plains and the Pacific Maritimes, the use of CRU or split applications do not appear to provide a consistent improvement in crop yield, N concentration in the grain, total N accumulation at harvest, or nitrogen use efficiency as compared to standard regional timing and placement of non-coated urea. © 2011.

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