Some producers are taking advantage of frozen ground conditions to apply nitrogen to wheat fields or manure to corn fields.

While this practice reduces the risk of compaction or rutting of fields, there are other factors to consider. Applications to frozen ground are at higher risk for runoff and loss of those nutrients. 

When the soil is frozen or saturated, water is not able to infiltrate into the soil profile and the water and nutrients can runoff to adjoining properties or waterways. NRCS Code 590 prohibits the application of manure to frozen ground for this reason.

On Jan. 30 the depth of frozen soil was 6 to 9 inches at Princeton, Kentucky. Both a Zanesville silt loam soil and a Pembroke silt loam were measured. No “thawed ground” was observed on either field even though air temperatures were above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. With rain forecast in the next 24 to 48 hours, little infiltration will occur and added nutrients will move with the water, often offsite. 

While the ability to traffic a field may be the primary consideration for a producer, they should also think about what happens if a significant rainfall event occurs (off-site movement of nutrients). In addition to the environmental consequences, the loss of nutrients is an economic loss.

Although it is tempting to “get over the ground” while it is frozen, be aware of the potential agronomic, economic and environmental consequences associated with this decision. Be patient and wait to apply nutrients when both soil and environmental conditions are more favorable.