Use of a Nitrogen Budget to Predict Nitrogen Losses in Processing Butternut Squash with Different Nitrogen Fertilization Strategies
With rising input costs and environmental concerns, growers are seeking methods to minimize nitrogen (N) inputs and off-field N losses while maintaining crop yields. Field studies on processing butternut squash ( Cucurbita moschata Duchesne ex Poir.) were conducted in 2004–2007 at 11 locations in Ontario, Canada, to determine the optimal N rate and estimate potential N losses. Preplant broadcast ammonium nitrate was applied at five rates between 0 and 220 kg N/ha. In contrasting years (i.e., cool/wet versus warm/dry versus average), 64% of sites were nonresponsive to N fertilizer as indicated by no differences in marketable squash yield. In responsive sites, the most economical rate of N (MERN) was between 105 and 129 kg N/ha of N fertilizer, indicating that the Ontario-recommended rate of 110 kg N/ha seems appropriate for responsive sites. At 110 kg N/ha, no yield advantage resulted from using a controlled-release N(CRN) or split-applying ammonium nitrate at preplant and vine elongation at 65 + 45 kg N/ha, respectively, compared with the same amount applied preplant. Apparent N losses(N inputs – N outputs) at harvest were 83 and 29 kg N/ha greater at a fertilizer application rate of 220 kg N/ha than at 0 and 110 kg N/ha, respectively. At 110 kg N/ha, crop removal balance and apparent N loss calculations suggest relatively low risk of N loss from the field during the growing season and after harvest, respectively. However, environmental and economical risks would be minimized if nonresponsive sites could be identified before N fertilizer application.