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Nitrogen Management is Gaining Attention

Sep 05, 2018

Silage season is going strong and as the fields are getting opened up a high percentage are showing nitrogen stress.  This likely will have affected yield and become more apparent as harvest progresses. Rain fall was very abundant  this year and we really needed to bushels to compensate for the price.  We all know nitrogen can move down in the soil and we lose N every year, some more than others, but we need to find that balance of nitrogen and rain fall to get the best yields. Implementing management practices can help us get through tough weather situations and some of those practices start in the fall.

Nutrient Management with Manure---Challenges

On the average, 88% of the manure composition is comprised of the organic and ammonium (NH4) forms of nitrogen.  This is good, initially.  Both of these forms are receptive to managing loss via nitrification inhibitors. 
  • The purpose of “nitrification inhibitors”, such as the nitrapyrin in Instinct II and N-Serve, is to delay the conversion of Ammonium Nitrogen (NH4+) into nitrate (NO3-).  
  • The NH4+ form “sticks” to your soil, remaining available for most efficient uptake and conversion by your crop. NH4+ vs NO3- is more efficient in the corn plant --- often results in dryer corn in the Fall
  • We recognize, the NO3- (nitrate) form doesn’t stay put in negatively charged soil particles, and free-falls out of root zone  and eventually to tile lines and groundwater creating public health and image issues, not to mention, also often economic impact for the producer.

Fall Application timing what to use

  • When we buy our commercial N we are concerned about keeping that investment for next season’s crop. We know we need to delay Anhydrous applications until after the soil temps drop below 50°F. This is because we know the microbial activity is beginning to decline and the conversion to NO3- will slow soon. We often apply nitrapyrin (N-Serve) with this application also, to preserve our investment in N so it doesn’t disappear before our crop needs it. We rightfully need to employ this same mindset to our manure nutrient as well.  
  • Not all the manure applications can get done if we wait till the ground gets below 50 degrees. Cover crop will reduce nitrate loss and is a better approach to applications happening in warmer soils with warm temperatures in the future. This is most likely in field chopped for silage
  • Application happening later in the season, when cover crops are likely to not get much growth, a stabilizer in the manure will preserve that nitrogen in the Ammonia form. Stabilizer will keep the ammonia from converting to nitrate insuring more of your nitrogen will be around for the next crop. 


Be conscious about the amount of total N 

  • Compared to the fact that when we are “writing a check at the coop” for fertilizer, and manage that expense by managing N rates, by contrast, manure often goes out based on logistics and operational convenience or necessity.  Rates are mostly 1.5X to 2X commercial nitrogen rates for crop production needs and get applied much earlier in the season.
  • CEC---your soil’s capacity to hold nutrients; your- Regardless of CEC, Nitrate (NO3-) will never stay in the soil profile very long.  With soils having excess nitrogen and an ongoing history the system is so overloaded that losses are extreme.  Managing rates and retaining as much in the Ammonium (NH4+) form is our best stewardship and economic decision.

We need to be more responsible to ourselves and our environment.
How we manage our nitrogen is in the spot light.  
Please let us and our agronomy and livestock teams at CFE work
with you to improve your efficiency with this nutrient.  
Our future in agriculture depends on it.


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