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Long-Term Impact of Nitrogen Fertilization on Corn Production, Soils and Nitrogen Cycling Processes in Minnesota

Start Date: 2019
Principal Investigators: Fabián Fernández, Karina Fabrizzi, Daniel Kaiser, Yuxin Miao, Paulo Pagliari, Lindsay Pease, Carl Rosen, Albert Sims, Jeffrey Strock, Jeffrey Vetsch, and Melissa Wilson
Organization: University of Minnesota
Status: Ongoing

Background Info

Nitrogen fertilizer is an essential input in modern corn production because corn is highly responsive to nitrogen. At the same time, nitrogen fertilizer can impact soil organic carbon stocks by influencing crop residue production and decomposition rates. These rates are extremely important as they affect the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that is needed to optimize crop production. Despite the fact that it is well known that nitrogen fertilization results in important changes in soil organic carbon and nitrogen cycling, the impact of long-term nitrogen and its effect on soil organic carbon quality and quantity as they relate to the fate of nitrogen fertilizer inputs and soil productivity (or soil health) is poorly understood. The parameters and functions mentioned above are not easily detectable in the short term. Establishment of long-term experiments allows researchers to investigate not only the effect of long-term nitrogen management on various properties, but also to evaluate how the resulting properties impact various agronomic practices (such as fertilizer recovery efficiency).


The objectives are to establish long-term nitrogen management sites in five locations throughout Minnesota in continuous corn and a corn-soybean cropping system.

The objectives are to conduct an in-depth characterization of soil properties at the start of the project.

Key Findings

Overall, the 2019 growing season was wetter than normal with precipitation ranging from 4.6 to 13.3 inches above normal across the sites (Table 2). Crookston was near normal or drier than normal during April to July and above normal for August to October. In Morris, except for April that was near normal, every month was wetter than normal. Becker was wetter than normal in April and May (especially May with 3.4 inches above normal) and at the end of the season in September and October, whereas the summer months (June-August) were near normal. Lamberton was overall wetter than normal except for June and August that were drier than normal. Rochester had near normal precipitation in April and except for a dry August (2.6 inches below normal), the season was wetter than normal with monthly precipitation during May, July and September exceeding 3.5 inches above the normal every month.

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