Send in the nutrient scavengers–article from

Research confirms that more than 50% of nitrogen (N) applied to wheat crops is not recovered in plants at harvest. Research also shows the remaining N in many soils across the U.S. washes below the root zone before next year’s crop is planted.

This data applies to regions where farmers traditionally plant one crop per year. This leaves the fields fallow over winter, exposed directly to the elements.

Leaving fertilizer behind has serious financial and environmental consequences. That’s why researchers are exploring ways to more fully utilize the inputs they apply.

“There does not appear to be a single silver bullet on the horizon,” says Lucas Patzek, a Washington State University (WSU) agricultural Extension faculty member who has been studying N use in wheat production. “Instead, we see that the real solution to this problem lies in approaching it from two directions.”

In the short-term, this means developing and promoting cropping systems that integrate a nutrient-scavenging component in their rotation.

Long-term, it means identifying wheat varieties that use N more efficiently. These would function as foundation stock for breeding programs that focus on varieties with improved uptake and lower N requirements.

Read the full article, from an article by Ed Haag, here.