Going split: in-season nitrogen applications

For the past half year and more, the months have not been farmer-friendly for harvest, fall work and planting. But the challenging weather windows may have played right into the best-practice management for split applications of nitrogen. Splitting nitrogen applications, with top-dress application, is a solid nutrient management strategy.
Last Fall, most producers across the Agtegra countryside were pushed just to finish combining. The late harvest and rapid freeze meant a lot of fall fertilization was not done.
This Spring has been a rush just to catch-up with planting, after a narrow window of seeding opportunities. Pressed for time, many producers chose to put an initial base application of urea down, just to get crops up and growing. But now to fully finish out nitrogen needs, in a summer that looks promising for crop growth, adding the last dose of nitrogen to the corn crop looks to be a good management choice.  
Your Agtegra agronomist will have looked at your soil tests, especially Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) as nitrogen applications are planned. Plenty of soils may have CEC capacities that can hold and manage the entire season of nitrogen recommendation in a single application. But that may not be the best management from a plant health or stewardship standpoint. 
“The goal of crop nutrition is to feed the crop all that it needs - at the time it needs it,” says Brad Ruden, Agtegra Agronomy Technical Services Manager. Timely “Spoon-feeding” is a great nutrient concept, says Ruden, but it also has to be practical, from a time and economic standpoint. For this next application, combine that timing into optimum utilization. “We never want to let the supply of nutrient dip below that demand curve,” says Ruden. “For corn, the big demand for nitrogen uptake doesn’t start until about V8, which is generally late June.”  
Going with split applications also allows some management flexibility, dependent on crop conditions. Ruden recommends a first application that puts on about 60% up-front. Then coming in with the rest of the application in-season around that V5 (five leaf collars) time, ahead of the demand curve. “Let the season tell you the potential for this crop, and then come back in with the rest,” he says.
Protecting that in-crop round of fertilizer from volatilization in a year like the one underway is also important. RemainN®, proprietary to Agtegra, is a urease inhibitor that reduces volatilization and ensures your nitrogen breaks down into the plant-available NH4 (ammonium) form.
Ruden says he has also received questions about nitrogen availability from those who did manage to fall-apply some fertilizer. He notes that most of that nitrogen should still be available. If you have concerns around nitrogen loss, we can do a soil Nitrate test to analyze the amount of nitrogen left in your soil. Losses from leaching, volatility or denitrification can occur and present the need for in-season application.
Splitting nitrogen applications is not just beneficial plant nutrition-wise. This management plan also makes for more efficient stewardship, in a world that now closely watches agricultural management. “As farmers, we want to make sure every nutrient we apply stays put and is utilized by our crops,” says Ruden. “We’re out to get the most efficiency from fertilizer, not just from an economic standpoint, but from an environmental standpoint as well. Splitting nitrogen applications is really a sound stewardship practice.”
Ruden says the idea of split nitrogen applications is a management practice whose time has come. “Finishing off that final application in-season makes a lot of sense,” he says. “We don’t want excessive nitrogen out there, but we also don’t want to be shorting that plant any time throughout the season. And split applications allow us to do exactly that.”
Your nearby Agtegra location has a fleet of equipment to service all your fertilizer needs, whether it’s a dry or liquid in-season application, as you finalize your split application plans.

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