Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most expensive crop inputs you invest in and can have a measurable effect on yield. Typically, nitrogen-use efficiency on fields is about 50 per cent. Increasing that efficiency will directly affect your bottom line. An understanding of the following spring nitrogen management essentials should set you on your way to maximizing nitrogen-use efficiency — and profits — on your farm.
1 - Nitrogen fertilizer applications are susceptible to many forms of loss, including volatilization, denitrification and leaching.
2 - Seed safety is paramount. A crop’s entire nitrogen requirement can’t be placed in the seed row as seed will be vulnerable to salt and ammonia toxicity.
3 - Several options exist for meeting nitrogen requirements, such as broadcast or side/mid-row band applications.
4 - Side banding with adequate separation between the seed row and the fertilizer band minimizes the adverse effects of ammonia toxicity on germinating seedlings.
5 - Broadcast and top-dress applications are considered to be less efficient than banding because the nutrients are not as readily available to the roots.
6 - Top-dressed fertilizer relies on rainfall to move it into the root zone. In the absence of rainfall, the fertilizer is susceptible to volatilization losses. Incorporation can help minimize these losses.
7 - In some instances, shallow-banded urea can also be susceptible to volatilization losses.
8 - Enhanced efficiency fertilizers can improve inefficient practices by delaying the conversion of nitrogen into forms susceptible to loss. Two common forms of EEFs include urease inhibitor products and polymer-coated urea.
9 - Polymer-coated urea is often used to increase the amount of seed row-placed nitrogen.
10 - Urease inhibitors are a viable option to minimize volatilization losses in top-dress applications.
How are you meeting the nitrogen requirements on your farm? Have you increased your nitrogen-use efficiency? I’d love to hear from you. Or contact a Cargill expert today for more information on spring nitrogen management.