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Jean-Pierre Goffart, Marguerite Olivier and Marc Frankinet

A decision support system (DSS) was based on the splitting of total nitrogen (N) fertilizer application combined with in-season assessments of crop N requirements aimed to matching, at field scale, potato (Solanum tuberosum) total crop N requirements and mineral N supply from soil and fertilizers. After the preplanting establishment of the total N recommendation based on the predictive balance-sheet method at a specific field scale, 70% of the recommended amount was applied to the crop at planting. Subsequently, at 20–50 days after emergence (DAE) the need for supplemental N was assessed through noninvasive measurements of leaf chlorophyll concentration directly in the field. A simple conditional relationship was established to support potato growers’ decisions on the usefulness of applying the remaining 30% N. This required a crop N status (CNS) assessment in the fertilized field and within a small, untreated area (zero-N for reference). The strategy developed is economically feasible, easy to operate, and validated for several potato varieties. It also gives the grower the possibility of improving N use efficiency (NUE). Several tools to assess CNS have been investigated, or are currently being investigated, at the Walloon Agricultural Research Center in Gembloux, Belgium (CRA-W) for integration into this strategy. All the tools are evaluated for four main characteristics: measurement accuracy and precision, sensitivity to N, specificity to N, and feasibility. There are invasive or noninvasive tools. The use of a chlorophyll meter (CM) has been currently developed in the DSS. Current CRA-W research is investigating the potential of crop light reflectance as an indicator of CNS (ground-based radiometers for near remote sensing and satellite multispectral imagery for spatial remote sensing).