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Spring camelina N rate: balancing agronomics and environmental risk in United States Corn Belt

Jane M. F. Johnson, Russ W. Gesch, Nancy W. Barbour
Archiv für Acker- und Pflanzenbau und Bodenkunde 2019 v.65 no.5 pp. 640-653
Camelina sativa, Mollisols, ammonium nitrogen, biofuels, cooking fats and oils, cost analysis, environmental impact, fertilizer application, fertilizer requirements, growing season, lipid content, nitrate nitrogen, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, nutrient use efficiency, seed oils, seed yield, Corn Belt region, North America
Camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz) seed oil has desirable properties for producing advanced biofuels and as a healthy cooking oil. It has been grown for centuries, but basic recommendations for nitrogen (N) fertilizer requirements are still needed to support widespread industrial cultivation across North America. A replicated N-response plot-scale study was conducted on a northern Mollisol soil for two growing seasons to 1) determine seed and oil yield, seed oil content, and vegetative response; 2) determine indices of N use efficiency; and 3) measure post-harvest residual inorganic soil N as an index of environmental risk. Seed and oil yield response to N fertilization was described with a quadratic function, which predicted maximum seed yield (1450 kg ha⁻¹) and oil yield (580 kg ha⁻¹) at about 130 kg N ha⁻¹. However, seed and oil yield did not differ significantly among N-rates above 34 kg N ha⁻¹. Seed oil content averaged 400 g kg⁻¹ among all N rates. Agronomic efficiency declined above 34 kg N ha⁻¹, which coincided with an increase of post-harvest soil nitrate-N plus ammonium-N (residual N). Considering N use efficiency, simple cost analysis, and risk associated with residual N, a rate of 34 kg N ha⁻¹ is recommended.