An irrigation study in southern Alberta compared spring-banded nitrogen (N) to spring-banded N plus fertigation at three plant growth stages for spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and canola (Brassica napus L.). Yield and quality impacts were quantified when N fertigation was applied to (i) wheat at the early tillering, flag leaf, and anthesis stages and (ii) canola at the four-leaf rosette, bolting, and early flowering stages. For both crops, fertigation could replace some spring-banded N without an effect on yield. However, the results revealed that for canola grown with a large amount of N, applying it all in the spring often generated higher yields than if an equivalent amount of N was delivered at later stages by fertigation. Canola oil concentration declined marginally (about 1%) from no applied N to the high rate of applied N. The application of more than 60 kg N ha-1 and delayed application each increased wheat protein content. Comparing revenues to costs, fertigation did not improve profit margins for canola growers. When growers applied 90 or 120 kg N ha-1 in the spring, fertigation was financially counter-productive. In contrast, the main benefit to wheat growers from fertigation was higher grain protein, especially with N applied at later growth stages. When protein premiums increase during the growing season, fertigation would facilitate growers to obtain higher net returns than they would otherwise.
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