Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Cook, Rachel


AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF BRENT C. SUNDERLAGE, for the Master of Science degree in Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems, presented on March 8, 2017, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: LATE APPLICATION NITROGEN ON CORN IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AND SOIL PROPERTIES AFFECTING AMMONIA VOLATILIZATION FROM UREA FERTILIZER MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Rachel L. Cook In corn (Zea mays L.) production systems, typical nitrogen fertilization occurs either before planting or after crop emergence, as late as the V6 stage. Since the majority of nitrogen uptake does not occur until V10 through R1, delaying nitrogen fertilization until V10 may reduce potential for early season soil N transformations and losses, while sustaining crop yields. A two-year study, conducted across three southern Illinois locations, evaluated the effects of various late sidedress nitrogen applications and enhanced efficiency fertilizers on corn yield and residual mineral soil N. The various nitrogen treatments compared: rates from 0-224 kg N ha-1; sources of urea and 32% UAN, with and without urease inhibitors 0.09% N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT) as Agrotain® Ultra (AT) and 0.06% NBPT + 0.02% N-(n-propyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NPPT) as Limus® (L), and polymer-coated urea (ESN®); application timings at planting, V6, V10, and VT; placement either dribble applied, broadcasted, or injected. Across sites and years, late (V10) nitrogen split applications generally resulted in corn yields greater than or equal to the same total nitrogen rate applied at planting. Most late N treatment differences varied between sites and years, but 56 kg N ha-1 as broadcasted UAN at planting with 112 kg N ha-1 as broadcasted urea, either with or without AT or L at V10 were on average highest yielding treatments among sites in both years, with 16% greater yield than 168 kg N ha-1 as broadcasted UAN at planting. Urease inhibitors did not enhance yield in most instances, likely due to sufficient incorporating rainfall shortly after application. The effects of urease inhibitors used with late-application nitrogen on corn yield and actual ammonia volatilization remained ambiguous. Residual soil mineral nitrogen concentrations between 0-30 cm after harvest in the late nitrogen treatments did not elicit water quality concerns. Furthermore, ammonia volatilization from surface applied urea is controlled by many interrelated soil properties as well as environmental conditions. However, conclusions about the influence of soil properties on ammonia volatilization differ according to geographies and are not well established across a wide range of soil types. A laboratory soil incubation experiment measured the effects of soil properties on ammonia volatilization over 7 days from surface-applied urea and the efficacy of three urease inhibitors: Agrotain® Ultra (AT) as 0.09% NBPT, Limus® (L) as 0.06% NBPT + 0.02% NPPT, and NutriSphere-N® (NS) 30% calcium salt of maleic-itaconic copolymer among 83 soil surface samples from across the United States with a wide range of soil properties. The soil properties evaluated were: total exchange capacity, 1:1 CaCl2 pH, organic matter, buffering capacity, clay content, and urease activity. In Urea (R2 = 0.69) and Urea + NS (R2 = 0.62) models, total exchange capacity, clay, and buffering capacity significantly reduced ammonia volatilization, and organic matter significantly increased ammonia volatilization, while 1:1 CaCl2 pH and urease activity were non-significant. Clay, organic matter, and buffering capacity were correlated to total exchange capacity. Total exchange capacity was the strongest predictor and best consolidated variable to predict N loss of urea. In Urea + AT (R2 = 0.54) and Urea + L (R2 = 0.67) models, ammonia volatilization was significantly reduced at lower 1:1 CaCl2 pH and total exchange capacity, and all other soil properties were non-significant. The NBPT in Urea + AT and Urea + L likely decayed more rapidly under acidic soil conditions, resulting reduced NBPT efficacy and greater N loss at lower pH. Urea + AT and Urea + L reduced volatilization significantly by 18.2 percentage points compared to Urea or Urea + NS, and there were no significant differences between Urea + AT and Urea + L (α = 0.05). On average, NutriSphere-N® did not reduce volatilization.

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