Tile drainage nitrate losses and corn yield response to fall and spring nitrogen management

Cameron M. Pittelkow, Matthew W. Clover, Robert G. Hoeft, Emerson D. Nafziger, Jeffery J. Warren, Lisa C. Gonzini, Kristin D. Greer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nitrogen (N) management strategies that maintain high crop productivity with reduced water quality impacts are needed for tile-drained landscapes of the US Midwest. The objectives of this study were to determine the effect of N application rate, timing, and fall nitrapyrin addition on tile drainage nitrate losses, corn (Zea mays L.) yield, N recovery efficiency, and postharvest soil nitrate content over 3 yr in a corn-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation. In addition to an unfertilized control, the following eight N treatments were applied as anhydrous ammonia in a replicated, field-scale experiment with both corn and soybean phases present each year in Illinois: fall and spring applications of 78, 156, and 234 kg N ha-1, fall application of 156 kg N ha-1 + nitrapyrin, and sidedress (V5-V6) application of 156 kg N ha-1. Across the 3-yr study period, increases in flow-weighted NO3 concentrations were found with increasing N rate for fall and spring N applications, whereas N load results were variable. At the same N rate, spring vs. fall N applications reduced flow-weighted NO3 concentrations only in the corn-soybean-corn rotation. Fall nitrapyrin and sidedress N treatments did not decrease flowweighted NO3 concentrations in either rotation compared with fall and spring N applications, respectively, or increase corn yield, crop N uptake, or N recovery efficiency in any year. This study indicates that compared with fall N application, spring and sidedress N applications (for corn-soybean-corn) and sidedress N applications (for soybean-corn-soybean) reduced 3-yr mean flow-weighted NO3 concentrations while maintaining yields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1064
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Tile drainage nitrate losses and corn yield response to fall and spring nitrogen management'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this