Revisiting nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for Saskatchewan: Are we measuring the right soil nitrogen pool?

  • Term: 3 years, beginning in 2018

  • Funding Amount: $35,526

  • Lead Researcher(s): Farrell Richard (University of Saskatchewan)

  • Funding Partners: Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SCDC)

Project Description

This research project focuses on developing a rapid soil test to determine potentially mineralizable N, in order to provide improved fertilizer recommendations.

Fertilizer, and in particular, N fertilizer, represents one of the highest single input costs for wheat and canola growers (Crop Planning Guide, 2016) yet there is growing concern that current soil N tests and soil N recommendations do not provide the information that farmers need to make informed fertilizer N decisions. Recently, a local soil testing lab (ALS Laboratories, Inc.) ceased making N fertilizer recommendations, and now limit their soil test reports to providing only the measured levels of inorganic N, leaving it to the farmer or agronomist to interpret these levels and develop their own fertilizer plans.

The proposed research is intended to demonstrate that the soil protein N pool is directly related to potentially mineralizable N, and that measuring this pool can provide a basis for improved fertilizer recommendations. Thus, the main objective of this study is to modify the existing N test method in to a rapid new soil N test that potentially correlates to mineralizable N and crop yield outcomes. Researchers intend to develop this into a commercial soil N test that could be licensed to others or developed further in-house. The new test will provide a better means of estimating fertilizer needs.