Effects of nitrogen supply on wheat and on soil nitrate
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Field experiments were conducted at two locations during two growing seasons in the Ebro Valley (Spain), to evaluate the effects of N fertilization on yield and quality of Mediterranean-type wheat in irrigated conditions. Seven N treatments and a control were investigated. The average grain yields ranged
from 2117 to 5551 kg ha-1 depending on the year and location. Grain protein ranged from 14.25 to 16.9%, and other quality parameters such as the dough strength (W) also varied with year and location, confirming the suitability of Mediterranean-type wheat and the climate for the production of good bread-making quality wheat. However, grain yields are normally low and both yields and quality can be greatly affected by the variability of this type of climate, even under irrigation. Under these conditions, grain yield increases were mainly due to an increase in the number of grains per m2 without a reduction in the N content per spike, suggesting that N in the grain was not source-limited, possibly due to the lower grain yields and relatively high soil nitrate concentrations. In soils with lower initial soil NO-3N contents, better grain yields could be achieved by applying a N fertilizer rate of about 100 kg N ha-1, whereas in soils with high initial NO-3N contents, no N or a maximum rate of 50 kg N ha-1 is needed to obtain a good grain quality, showing the possibility of producing high-quality wheat with a low amount of N fertilizer and thus increasing the sustainability of the cropping system.