In this issue, we share some best management practices for strengthening a fall fertility program to include some strategic considerations for anhydrous ammonia application. 

While a very economical form of nitrogen (N), it’s also one which requires cautious and accurate application. Strip-tillers have long split on the value vs. risk debate over anhydrous. 

Bloomington, Ill., farmer Jason Lay, has experience on both sides, having banded anhydrous in a fall strip-till system before switching to spring strip-till and a liquid N program. A combination of variables factored into Lay’s decision to move away from fall strip-till, including corn-on-corn residue management concerns. 

But his primary challenge and concern was the narrow window of opportunity in fall to effectively apply anhydrous.

“We had to wait late enough on the calendar, but at the same time we couldn’t wait too long, or Mother Nature would slam the door shut on us,” Lay says.  “Plus, we’d been susceptible to erosion and in January 2005, we had a thawing of about the top 3-4 inches of the soil followed by a 7-inch rainfall event that just cut right down where we had run our anhydrous knife.”

Today, Lay opts for a spring fertility program, with the first application of 32% N, along with a small amount of Thio-Sul, made during creation of 8-inch strips with his 12-row Dawn Pluribus rig. Lay says one of the biggest benefits is a broader application window, although he still prefers to plant right after strip-tilling. 

“We need to be pretty cognizant of running too high of a salt content ahead of the planter, so we try to max out N rate at about 64 units per acre,” he says. “Any higher and we’d get into some burn issues and some difficulty with emergence.”

What are your tips for avoiding seed burn when applying nitrogen in your strip-till system? Share your story with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at