The necessity of achieving appropriate nitrogen fertilization of vegetable crops relates to both economical and environmental sustainability. Split nitrogen applications have been shown to improve N-use efficiency, in line with the aforementioned objective and should therefore be encouraged. Given the variation in the amount of N naturally provided to, or uptaken by, the crop, strategies are required to tailor supplementary fertilization to actual crop needs, keeping in mind the absolute requirement for optimal yield in quality and quantity. It is suggested that the fertilization rates applied at sowing or later in the season can be figured in two manners. The first relies on modelling; the second on measurements. The modelling (N budget) approach, mostly linked to initiatives on the European continent, would be most applicable to the determination of the first fertilizer dressing. When a plant stand is established, however, canopy-based measurements made either directly or remotely could be developed to make use of the capability of the plants to integrate the properties of the soil environment and to decide upon further top-dressed applications. For this purpose, a fully fertilized “reference plot” has to be introduced in the field in order to overcome the variability induced by season, site and cultivar. With the emergence of “precision farming” and “remote sensing technologies” it is now possible to adjust fertilizer inputs not only at the field level but also within fields based on actual, localized requirements.
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