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The Importance of Nitrogen to Corn Growth and Development

Apr 30, 2018

The Value of Inhibiting Nitrification

In the past, growers would apply additional nitrogen to make up for the expected losses from leaching or denitrification. Researchers now recommend applying only the amount of nitrogen the corn plant requires to fulfill its yield potential — then inhibiting the loss of that nitrogen by using a nitrogen stabilizer. 

For corn to reach optimum yield potential, corn plants need readily available nitrogen (N) during key growth stages. Corn’s greatest demand for nitrogen for growth and grain production occurs up to 75 days after emergence (seven- to 10-leaf stage). This is also the time of greatest nitrogen loss in the soil (see Chart 1). In addition to yield advantages, adequate amounts of nitrogen during early development improve overall plant health. This can increase grain protein, improve standability, reduce stalk rot and enable more natural crop drydown — all factors that can impact a crop’s profit potential.

By inhibiting nitrification, Instinct® HL makes the most efficiently used form of nitrogen available longer for plant uptake. This helps make the best use of a grower’s fertilizer investment, while reducing nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. 

CFE Agronomy Sales Manager Terry Aukes says most farmers tend to stick with Instinct® HL after their first experience using the nitrogen stabilizer because they see the economic results and like that they’re doing something to decrease their environmental footprint.

According to Dow AgroSciences, the manufacturer of Instinct® HL, using the nitrogen stabilizer resulted in an average revenue increase of $29.23 per acre in Iowa based on 40 Dow AgroSciences field trials from 2013 to 2015.1 Aukes says CFE is testing Instinct® HL in 15 replicated field trials in 2018 to measure how it performs in local fields.

Nitrogen Deficiency is Common — and Costly

As corn plants mature throughout the season, their source of nitrogen can be lost due to leaching and denitrification (see Figure 1). If nitrogen is no longer available for the plant to use, the plant begins to absorb the nitrogen contained within its own leaves and stalk — a process known as cannibalization. When the plant is absorbing nutrients from itself, it’s also making sacrifices — such as reducing the supply of nutrients to lower leaves. These leaves begin to turn yellow, shrivel to a fraction of their normal size and eventually drop, a process referred to as “firing.” It’s normal for lower leaves to die as corn plants mature, but excessive firing is a visual symptom of nitrogen deficiency. Once cannibalization begins, the cornstalks are weakened and more susceptible to stalk rot and yields can be significantly reduced.

For more information on adding Instinct® HL to your N applications,
contact your local CFE representative.

1 Based on 40 Dow AgroSciences field trials from 2013-15 resulting in an average 9.45 bu./A yield increase at $3.50/bu.

Instinct® is a registered trademark of Dow AgroSciences.

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