Can Environmentally Smart Nitrogen Fertilizer increase Crop Yields in Southern Alberta?

Kiah Leicht

MSc. Student, University of Alberta

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Nitrogen fertilizer is an important agronomic input for crop production in Western Canada, but it is estimated that 50% of applied nitrogen fertilizer is not taken up by the crop, decreasing crop production and resulting in environmental pollution of the air and waterways (3). Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN) is a controlled release fertilizer which releases nitrogen gradually throughout the growing season, allowing for improved nitrogen uptake by better matching nitrogen supply with the crop need (5).

However, yield gains with Environmentally Smart Nitrogen are dependent upon site management practices and conditions (1, 2, 4-7), therefore the objective of this study was to determine under which conditions Environmentally Smart Nitrogen is able to provide increased yields in Lethbridge, Alberta. A randomized complete block experiment was used to collect barley, canola and wheat yield data for different nitrogen fertilizer sources, nitrogen fertilizer rates, and nitrogen fertilizer timings and placements, on dryland and irrigated sites. A series of one-way and two-way ANOVAs were used to determine under which fertilizer management practices and conditions Environmentally Smart Nitrogen provided yield gains for the different crop types.

Environmentally Smart Nitrogen did not provide yield gains over Urea fertilizer when fall or spring banded for all three crop types. However, seed placed Environmentally Smart Nitrogen and Blend (25% Urea, 75% Environmentally Smart Nitrogen) treatments allowed for yield gains of up to 25% for barley, 17% for wheat, and 116% for canola with 95% confidence. Results from this study can be used to develop fertilizer management strategies that effectively utilize Environmentally Smart Nitrogen to provide yield gains for barley, canola and wheat crops in Southern Alberta.

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