Rethinking Fertilizer Plans: Splitting Nitrogen Applications with Stabilizer Treatments

There are the usual compressed springs, and then there is spring of 2019. A late fall meant a good share of nitrogen fertilizers did not get applied across the Agtegra countryside last year. Now with wet weather patterns continuing to add inches to the snow melt, there’s going to be an extremely narrow window for timely spring field work.
 
“We may have to rethink fertilizer plans,” says Brad Ruden, Agtegra Agronomy Technical Services Manager. “There’s going to be a lot of surface-applying of urea, just because of the time element.” Dry fertilizer spreaders can cover a lot of ground, notes Ruden, but hesays this may be the year to really evaluate the value behind in-season second passes.
 
Split applications, with the addition of nitrogen stabilizers, will help with some of this season’s time crunch problems. The mindset behind the strategy is putting down the nutrient when the plant needs it the most, with the next applications based on crop potential as the season progresses and environmental conditions are assessed.
 
“Going with split applications allows the customer and agronomist to fully analyze crop potential and make subsequent adjustments on those next passes,” he explains. “It’s also going to provide efficiency by not putting all nutrients on up front, and provides some flexibility with application, product and timing.”  
 
Ruden also says this is the year to consider adding a nitrogen stabilizer to the mix, especially with the perfect storm of anticipated wet soils in such a narrow planting window. RemaiN®, proprietary to Agtegra, is one of those stabilizers. The product is a urease inhibitor that protects nitrogen from ammonia volatilization. It slows down the enzyme process that makes urea into available nitrogen, ensuring that the maximum amount of nitrogen breaks down to the plant-available NH4 (ammonium) form.
 
“We can lose up to 30 to 40 percent of ammonia (NH3) nitrogen to the atmosphere when that cycle happens too rapidly,” says Ruden. “It becomes more than just lost yield potential of your crop. It’s also a loss of your fertilizer investment.”
 
Unique to RemaiN is the active ingredient and carrier formulated to deeply drive the active product into each prill and to aid in spreader handling. The bright yellow product defends against volatilization, keeping nitrogen in place, in a form that the crop can use.
 
For that second pass application, Ruden says the use of RemaiN may be even more critical as the soils continue to warm up. “We’re anticipating a wide range of soil environments this year, as we progress. The big goal will be to get every bit of crop nutrition that we apply in a field available to the plant,” says Ruden.
 
Leaching may also be an issue this season. Instinct®, another nitrogen stabilizer, slows down the bacterial conversion of ammonium into nitrate. In the nitrate form, it is susceptible to leaching and moving away from the plant’s root zone. Instinct extends nitrogen availability in the ammonium form, so it’s available during the corn plant’s time of critical growth.
 
While the focus is on nitrogen, Ruden reminds customers that protection of all major nutrients, like phosphorus, is important. Avail® Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer reduces fixation of applied phosphorus, keeping more available for plant uptake.  
 
He recommends talking now with your local Agtegra agronomist about nitrogen application strategies, especially as challenging weather has halted any hopes of an early spring. The bright side to this, of course, is the abundant soil moisture, jumpstarting growth once seeding is underway.  
 
“We’re going to get in the fields eventually,” says Ruden. “Think about maximizing the return on dollars invested by splitting applications and protecting nitrogen with stabilizers.”

 

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