Insight into the response of cereal yields to nitrogen fertilizer is fundamental to improving nutrient management and policies to sustain economic crop benefits and food sufficiency with minimum nitrogen pollution. Here we propose a new method to assess long-term (LT) regional sustainable nitrogen inputs. The core is a novel scaled response function between normalized yield and total net nitrogen input. The function was derived from 25 LT field trials for wheat, maize and barley in Europe, Asia and North America and is fitted by a second-order polynomial (R2=0.82). Using response functions derived from common short-term field trials, with soil nitrogen not in steady state, gives the risks of soil nitrogen depletion or nitrogen pollution. The scaled LT curve implies that the total nitrogen input required to attain the maximum yield is independent of this maximum yield as postulated by Mitscherlich in 1924. This unique curve was incorporated...

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