Net Returns from Terrain-Based Variable-Rate Nitrogen Management on Dryland Spring Wheat in Northern Montana
Long, Dan S.
Whitmus, Jeffrey D.
Engel, Richard E.
Brester, Gary W.
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Agricultural producers can use variable-rate application technology to vary N fertilizer within fields. This study was conducted to estimate changes in net returns from implementation of variable-rate N management (VNM) on hard red spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in a summer-fallow region in northern Montana. Net return from uniform N management (UNM) traditionally used by producers was compared with that from VNM in eight dryland fields between 1994 and 2004. Field experiments consisted of a replicated series of four to six N rates applied within strips oriented with the length of each field. Management zones (MZs) were created by dividing the fields into upper slopes, south-facing middle slopes, north-facing middle slopes, and lower slopes. Nitrogen recommendations for MZs were based on soil N testing and expected yields. Grain yield data were obtained using a production-size combine equipped with a yield monitor. Mean grain protein and yield were similar between VNM and UNM. Yield differences were <223 kg haâ€“1 and averaged only 18 kg haâ€“1. Grain yield did not differ significantly among N rates within MZs. In seven of the eight sites, net returns from VNM were up to US$27.97 haâ€“1 less than from UNM and were not profitable if Environmental Quality Incentive Program payments of US$6.36 haâ€“1 were considered as part of net income. Little evidence existed that VNM based on constructed MZs and predetermined N recommendations improves grain yields and profits or reduces N use in water-limited, summer-fallow systems of northern Montana.
Long, Dan S., Jeffrey D. Whitmus, Richard E. Engel, and Gary W. Brester. "Net Returns from Terrain-Based Variable-Rate Nitrogen Management on Dryland Spring Wheat in Northern Montana." Agronomy Journal 107, no. 3 (April 2015): 1055-1067. DOI: 10.2134/agronj14.0331.