Effect of previous soil management on sugarcane response to nitrogen fertilization

Rafael Otto, Eduardo Mariano, Richard Lesley Mulvaney, Saeed Ahmad Khan, Beatriz Nastaro Boschiero, Sarah Tenelli, Paulo Cezar Ocheuze Trivelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


N Fertilizer recommendations must be improved to optimize N use efficiency (NUE) for bioenergy crops. A study was conducted to test the hypothesis that sites varying in historical usage of by-product differ in soil N-supplying power and sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) responsiveness to N fertilization. Our aim was to quantify soil N availability and N fertilizer rates, sources, and application timings for their effects on sugarcane yield and NUE. Three N response trials, each involving 0 to 200 kg N ha–1, were conducted in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, at sites varying historically in the usage of vinasse. Before fertilizer application and at harvest, soil inorganic N content was quantified and potential N mineralization estimated by the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT); stalk yield and sugar content were measured at harvest and used to estimate NUE. Sugarcane showed significant response to N fertilization only at the sites with no history of vinasse usage. Reducing the N rate from 120 to 80 kg N ha–1 showed limited potential for lowering yield (~ 1 %), while increasing the NUE by 54 %, which was far better than the 14 % increase achieved by modifying the N source or application timing. Monitoring inorganic N and ISNT levels over time to estimate soil N-supplying power has potential for predicting the responsiveness of sugarcane to N fertilization; however, ISNT interpretations must consider factors that impede mineralization or crop N utilization, such as soil acidity or a limitation on the availability of Ca or P. Soil N testing can help optimize NUE for sustainable bioenergy production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-81
Number of pages10
JournalScientia Agricola
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Illinois soil N test
  • Inorganic N
  • Mineralization
  • Saccharum spp
  • Vinasse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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