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© 1993, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska on behalf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension. All rights reserved.


This NebGuide describes how to use a chlorophyll meter as a tool to improve nitrogen management by detecting nitrogen deficiency and determining the need for additional N fertilizer. Fertilizer nitrogen (N) is increasingly recognized as the source of nitrate contamination in much of Nebraska's groundwater. Improving the efficiency of fertilizer N use reduces the amount of N that can potentially contaminate water resources. Effective management of fertilizer N is a major challenge for grain crop producers. Many factors that affect its efficiency are beyond a producer's control. Weather, equipment limitations and breakdowns, and availability of labor and fertilizer during critical periods can lead to inadequate N supply to the crop. Fertilizer N is relatively inexpensive, and deficiencies can result in substantial yield reductions. Producers are inclined to manage fertilizer N to minimize the risk of deficiency, which can lead to excessive fertilizer applications. Although they understand fertilizer applied at excessive rates costs money and may lead to contamination of the environment, producers also want assurance that applying less fertilizer N will not reduce crop yields.