Wet Conditions in Corn Belt Create Nitrogen Application Challenges

Corn growers can’t afford to gamble on weather cooperating when applying nitrogen. In much of the Corn Belt, wet soils are preventing farmers from making timely in-season nitrogen applications. In addition, the risks of losing nitrogen – reduced yield and lower return on investment – are higher than in a more typical year.

That’s why proper in-season application is critically important. Losses to ammonia volatilization, in particular, are highest when urea is applied to wet or moist soils and during warm weather, according to Dr. Greg Schwab, director of agronomy at Koch Agronomic Services, LLC (KAS). 

Because corn is now growing rapidly, growers can’t afford to wait for more ideal soil conditions to apply nitrogen. Using surface broadcast applications of urea or dribble-banding UAN is much faster than knifing in UAN or anhydrous ammonia, but up to 40 percent of surface-applied urea nitrogen can be lost due to volatilization.Agrotain nitrogen stabilizer dramatically reduces volatilization loss, making their surface-applied fertilizer an efficient option, Dr. Schwab says.

For replanted corn, he suggests that growers apply nitrogen even earlier, preferably before the V6 stage, especially if nitrogen was not applied pre-plant or if the supply of nitrogen is low. Because of the warm temperatures, replanted corn will grow faster and can quickly become too tall.  Earlier applications will also reduce plant injury when turning fertilizer spreaders. Agrotain stabilizer should be included in these applications as well.

In some parts of the Corn Belt, recent excessive rainfall has delayed planting and increased the risk of leaching or denitrification. Growers in these areas should consider SuperU fertilizer, which contains both a urease and a nitrification inhibitor and protects against both leaching and denitrification as well as volatilization, Dr. Schwab says. For UAN applications, Agrotain Plus  stabilizer can be added; its two modes of action work together to minimize the three forms of nitrogen loss. Both products are from KAS and available at most fertilizer retailers. 
Side-dress applications require a mix of the grower’s knowledge and experience and science – tools such as soil profile nitrate samples, crop models and crop canopy sensors. 

KAS products like Agrotain stabilizer and SuperU fertilizer help growers implement best management practices and adopt the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship – Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place – to maximize uptake and minimize loss. KAS supports this science-based approach.


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