Influence of nitrification inhibitors on yields of arable crops: A meta-analysis of recent studies in Germany

Document Type: Research Paper


Chair of Plant Nutrition, Department of Plant Sciences, Technische Universität München, Emil-Ramann-Str. 2, D-85350 Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.


Nitrification inhibitors (NIs) delay the oxidation of ammonium by soil

microorganisms, maintaining a higher proportion of applied nitrogen (N) in the soil

by preventing nitrate-N loss from leaching and gaseous N losses from nitrification

and denitrification. Thus, a large number of studies have shown N fertilizers with

NIs are more environmentally friendly. In contrast, there are only a limited number

of studies about effects of the N fertilizers added with NIs on arable crop yields

and the conclusions are also divergent. This study presents a meta-analysis of

recent research in Germany investigating the effects of NIs on the yields of

different agricultural crops (winter wheat, winter barley, winter rapeseed, potato,

grain and silage maize) compared to conventional N fertilization without NIs at a

given N rate. Crop yields with and without NIs at a reduced number of N fertilizer

applications were also compared. Nitrogen fertilizers with NIs did not significantly

influence the yields of all investigated crops. For a given N application rate, the

number of fertilizer applications could be reduced by at least one without any

significant effect on yield when fertilizers with NIs were used. By contrast, the

crude protein content of winter wheat was decreased significantly when the number

of applications of NI fertilizers was less than that of non-NI-containing fertilizers.

These findings may suggest that the key advantages to using N fertilizers with NIs

are helping to protect the environment due to reduced N losses and reducing labor

costs due to saving at least one fertilizer application, all while maintaining the

yields of the investigated crops.

Keywords: Field crops; Nitrification inhibitor (NI); Nitrogen (N); N fertilizers;

Crop yield.