Use of Nitrogen Calibration Ramps and Canopy Reflectance on Farmers' Irrigated Cotton Fields
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Nitrogen is the main nutrient limiting irrigated cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) production in the southwestern United States. Canopy spectral refl ectance may assess the need for in-season N in irrigated cotton and guide N fertilizer applications. However, calibration of remote sensing indices such as normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI) to the crop's need for N fertilizer is diffi cult. Well-fertilized reference strips or plots reference NDVI data in the crop area of interest but can result in rank growth and reduced lint yields. Recently, Oklahoma State University developed a calibration procedure of using multiple, sequential, N rate calibration plots, or a ramp approach for wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and corn (Zea mays L.). We tested this approach in irrigated cotton fi elds in Lubbock County, Texas, in 2008 and 2009. The main objective of this research was to test a calibration ramp approach to determining optimum in-season N fertilizer rates in irrigated cotton in West Texas. Near infrared, red, and amber refl ectance was measured with active spectroradiometers at 1 m above the canopy. Wide ranges in soil type and irrigation amounts infl uenced NDVI much more than N fertilizer rate. Normalized difference vegetative index at mid-bloom and at peak bloom were positively related to N fertilizer rate in only one ramp in each year. These two ramp-years also had signifi cant N fertilizer rate response in lint yield. Ramps that did not have mid- or peak bloom NDVI responses to N rate, likewise had no lint yield response to N rate. In both low irrigation- low N input and in high irrigation-high N input farms, in-season NDVI correctly predicted lint yield response to N fertilizer rate. Soil Science Society of America.