Improving nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency in surface- and overhead sprinkler-irrigated cotton in the desert southwest

K. F. Bronson, D. J. Hunsaker, J. Mon, J. W. White, M. M. Conley, K. R. Thorp, E. Bautista, P. Andrade-Sanchez, E. M. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency (NUE) is low in surface-irrigated cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), especially when adding N to irrigation water. A NO3 soil-test algorithm was compared with canopy reflectance-based N management with surface- overhead sprinkler-irrigation in central Arizona. The surface irrigation studies also compared fertigation of N fertilizer with knifing- in of N and the addition of a urease and nitrification inhibitor (Agrotain Plus, Koch Agronomic Services, Wichita, KS) to urea ammonium nitrate (UAN). Cotton lint and seed yields responded positively to N fertilizer in all four site-years. Recovery efficiency (RE) of N at low N fertilizer rates (60 to 76 kg N ha-1) ranged from 21 to 61% with surface irrigation and from 81 to 97% with overhead sprinkler irrigation. Deep percolation below 1.8 m was 4 to 11% of applied surface irrigations and rain, but was undetectable in the overhead sprinkler. Leaching of NO3 was apparently the largest N loss pathway in the surface-irrigated system. Fertigating UAN into surface irrigation resulted in similar lint yields and RE as knifing UAN. Use of Agrotain Plus with UAN gave similar yields and RE as using UAN alone. Reflectance-based N management using normalized difference vegetation index-amber (NDVIA) saved 50% of N fertilizer of the full soil-test based dose without a yield reduction in three of four site- years. Nitrogen fertilizer was over-prescribed with the soil-test-based treatment. This may have been due to not accounting for N mineralization, which the reflectance method indirectly measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1401-1412
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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