Source: 360 Yield Center

Harvest is underway and soon farmers will start setting the stage for the 2016 season. For many, that means applying their entire nitrogen supply on fields this fall. But, that could be a mistake.

“As margins remain tight, we really need to think carefully about nitrogen (N) management and make sure we’re making the most of inputs,” says Jim Schwartz, 360 Yield Center’s Regional Agronomy Manager. “And, for those putting all their N out now, it becomes vulnerable to loss from rain and the environment and may not be there next summer  when corn actually needs it.”

Schwartz suggests farmers approach fall anhydrous application as building a foundation for next year’s nitrogen management plan. With a base plus approach, farmers can apply a base rate this fall or in the early spring but save some N for mid- or late-season application.

He offers several questions to consider before farmers apply nitrogen this fall.

1.       What happens to nitrogen after it is applied?

Once nitrogen is applied to the soil only two things can happen; it can be taken up by the plant or can be lost to the environment via leaching, nitrification or denitrification.

2.       How much of your fall N application will be left by V10 next year? 

The corn plant takes up approximately 75% of its N after V10. By adjusting your nitrogen management plan and accounting for a late-season N application as close to V10 as possible, or when your crop needs it based on soil nitrate measurement and testing, you can help maximize yields and minimize N loss to the environment via leaching and denitrification. Plus, by timing application during the time of uptake, you’ll maximize inputs and N efficiency.

3.       Do you know what the 2016 growing season has in store?

No one has a crystal ball and we don’t know what the following growing season has in store. If it is similar to how 2015 was in the Corn Belt, with heavy rain events early in the season, fall and spring applied nitrogen is at great risk for loss.

By saving inputs for mid- to late-season N application, we can let Mother Nature play her hand and adjust our plans based on the environment, the season and up-to-date, in-field soil nitrate data.