The resources for global food production (land, soil, water, biodiversity, some nutrient elements) are finite and some even scarce. The main elements for crop production are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen (N) is essential for life and the main nutrient element. Indeed, it is needed in relatively large quantities for the production of amino acids (protein), nucleic acids, and chlorophyll in plants. Intensive agriculture utilizes large amounts of nitrogen (N) by applying mineral fertilizers to the soil in order to ensure a high crop yield. Unfortunately, up to 65% of this nitrogen is not taken up by crops and it is lost into the environment. In order to compensate for this loss, growers usually apply more fertilizer than the crop needs, resulting in an excess of nitrogen pollution. Therefore, to reach sustainable and environmentally friendly food production while decreasing N fertilizer requirements, it is essential to increase the nutrients use efficiency.
The new EU Fertilising Products Regulation, which entered into force on 15 July 2019, establishes plant biostimulants as fertilizers twith the ability to improve tolerance to abiotic stresses, and/or quality traits, but nutrient use efficiency, as well (EU Regulation 2019/1009, 2019).
The focus for the 2022 edition of the CAMPO DEMO Cereals will then be on nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). NUE is frequently defined as the rate of conversion of N input (e.g., N- fertilizer applied and/or soil N) into total plant biomass or specific plant organ biomass (e.g., grain yield).
In CAMPO DEMO 2022, wheat will be grown at three levels of nitrogen: 100% (as the farm practice), 75%, and 50%. In conditions of nitrogen reduction, different biostimulants will be applied in order to evaluate the contribution of each of them to the crop’s growth in terms of chlorophyll content, yield, and quality traits. Vegetation indexes will be calculated by using a multispectral camera mounted on a drone in order to give a better understanding of the products’ effects.