Nitrogen effects on water use efficiency in the semi-arid Canadian prairies
De Jong, R.
In the semiarid environment of the Canadian prairies, water is the main constraint to crop production. Few studies have examined the influence of fertilizer on water use efficiency (WUE) and fewer still have made comparisons on a cropping system basis. We assessed the impact of fertilizer N on WUE in a 39-year crop rotation experiment conducted on a Brown Chernozemic soil at Swift Current, Saskatchewan. The cropping systems included continuous wheat (Cont W) with N+P and P fertilizer alone, and a fallow-wheat-wheat (F-W-W) system with N+P and P only. All cropping systems were managed using conventional tillage practices. We developed an equation to asses WUE of the cropping systems that included water use during the fallow year. We also calculated precipitation use efficiency (PUE, i.e., yield/harvest-to-harvest precipitation). WUE and PUE values and fertilizer effects were greatest in the later third of the study period, due to the increase in recommended fertilizer N rates applied and the more favorable moisture conditions that prevailed. We converted PUE results into net return values ($ ha-1 mm-1 water) by assuming an average price over the 39-yr period and found that N fertilizer in the Cont W system earned an average return above fertilizer cost of $36.39 ha-1 yr-1 and $9.81 ha-1 yr-1in the F-W-W system.
precipitation use efficiency
spring wheat crop rotation
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