Help Nitrogen Help You

Setting your crop up for success is the key to getting good yields. Sometimes, that means working with what the weather gives you. With this year’s abbreviated spring, corn growers need to make some adjustments to give their crops a head start.
“Because we had a compressed spring this year, growers may not have all the fertilizer out on the field that they wanted,” says Brad Ruden, Agtegra Agronomy Technical Services Manager. “So that means we’re possibly dealing with nitrogen and other fertilizer needs on corn.”
Switching Up Nitrogen Application
This year presents an opportunity for farmers to apply nitrogen fertilizer post-emergence on their corn crop by top dressing the corn with urea.
“You can do top dress very efficiently to complete a crop nutrition program,” says Ruden. “The key with warmer temperatures is, if not carefully applied, we could lose some of that nitrogen that’s put on the surface.”
Ruden recommends that growers work with their Agtegra agronomist to make sure the right amount of nitrogen is applied appropriately.
Stabilize That Nitrogen
Ruden suggests that farmers consider adding a nitrogen stabilizer to protect nitrogen in urea or liquid fertilizers from volatilization. Agtegra carries two excellent nitrogen stabilizer products.
These nitrogen stabilizers help keep the nitrogen in place and in a form that the crop can use.
“In warm, moist soils, urease enzymes in the soil help break down urea into a useful form,” says Ruden. “During that process, urea gets converted to ammonia at first, then to ammonium as it reacts with water. Ammonium nitrogen is stable in the soil, but if the process happens quickly, then that gaseous ammonia is allowed to escape into the atmosphere.”
Adding a nitrogen stabilizer on urea slows down the process of the urease enzyme so that when ammonia forms, it links with a water molecule to become ammonium. Ammonium adheres to the soil particles, making it more available to the corn plants.
Nitrogen can be broadcast as dry urea or by Y-drop units that apply liquid nitrogen fertilizer right at the plant’s base.
Ruden recommends that the most efficient way to apply urea is with a spinner box, dry spreader unit, or even by air, which spreads the dry nitrogen over the ground surface. Aerial application offers a later season application window.  Y-Drop units, where available, can provide precision placement of the liquid nitrogen at the base of the plants, but do require a slower application speed.
As part of a complete crop nutrition program, growers will be feeding their corn crop with the correct amount of nitrogen fertilizer, but other nutrients can be added as well.
“We can put sulfur and other nutrients out there, too,” Ruden adds. “We want to work with the grower to get the right balance of nutrients.”
Ruden recommends that growers visit with their Agtegra agronomist about their nitrogen needs and financing. Right now qualified applications of top dressing with urea, Y-drop UAN or aerial applications treated with a nitrogen stabilizer will be eligible for fall financing.