Site-specific production functions for variable rate corn nitrogen fertilization

Matías L. Ruffo, Germán A. Bollero, David S. Bullock, Donald G. Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Specific recommendations for variable rate nitrogen (VRN) fertilization in corn (Zea mays L.) are required to realize the potential environmental and economic benefits of this technology. However, recommendations based on algorithms that consider the processes controlling crop response to nitrogen fertilizer (NF) within fields have not yet been developed. The objectives of this study were to develop site-specific corn yield production functions for VRN fertilization and to determine the site-specific variables controlling corn response to NF. The experiments were conducted on eight commercial production fields. Fields were divided into 13-20 sections composed of five plots. Each plot received one NF rate. Site-specific variables included primary and secondary terrain attributes, and the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT). Nitrogen fertilizer significantly increased corn yield and it interacted with at least one site-specific variable. The ISNT was the site-specific variable that interacted with NF in most fields where the CV of ISNT was larger than 10%. The parameter estimates indicate that ISNT had a positive effect on corn yield and that it reduced the response to NF. Terrain attributes also affected corn yield and its response to NF. In general, parameter estimates indicated that well drained areas (i.e. small specific catchment area, moderate slopes) had higher yields and responded less to NF than areas where water is expected to accumulate. These results indicate that terrain attributes as surrogates for soil water content and the ISNT as a measure of soil mineralizable nitrogen are site-specific characteristics that affect corn yield and its response to NF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-342
Number of pages16
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Illinois soil nitrogen test
  • Management zones
  • Production function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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