Managing nitrogen as system is the best way to maximize the dollars spent on fertilizer. The goal is to keep the nitrogen in the field and available for plant uptake when the crop needs nitrogen.
The three strategies to managing nitrogen as a system are: using nitrogen stabilizers to prolong the amount of time nitrogen stays in the field, using spilt applications to increase the chance nitrogen is available when the crop needs it and to use a biological nitrogen source which will provide a low dose of nitrogen to the crop all season long.
1. Use Nitrogen Stabilizers.
Nitrogen stabilizers are the easiest and most effective way to protect the investment a grower has made in nitrogen fertilizer.
“Most synthetic fertilizers contain nitrogen as ammonium (NH4+) or a form of nitrogen that will be converted to ammonium. This is ideal because ammonium is easy for the crop to uptake, however, bacteria in the soil rapidly covert ammonium to nitrate (NO3-) which can easily be lost to leaching or denitrification.” says Dr. Anna Herzberger, GROWMARK, Technical Agronomist. “Nitrification inhibitors keep the applied nitrogen fertilizer in the ammonium form longer, preventing nitrogen from being lost to the environment and ensuring it is available for crop uptake.”
Dr. Herzberger went on to say, “Often, people think if they incorporate urea it is protected. But this is not true, regardless of whether the urea is incorporated, urease inhibitors are needed to prevent urea from volatilization – when it turns into a gas and is lost to the environment.”
2. Consider Split Nitrogen Applications.
Split applications of nitrogen are another crucial management step that prevents nitrogen loss and increases its availability for crop growth.
According to Dr. Herzberger, by splitting nitrogen fertilizer into multiple applications, we can limit the amount time the nitrogen is in the field and can be lost via denitrification, leaching and volatilization and deliver the fertilizer closer to the time when the crop will use it. Split applications are a risk management tool.
3. Explore Biological Nitrogen Products.
“New products are emerging to help growers managing nitrogen by adding a biological source of nitrogen. These products generally include the application of living bacteria to the crop that can fix atmospheric nitrogen and provides a small amount of nitrogen to the crop throughout the growing season,” said Dr. Herzberger. “The bacteria in these products differ but all work similarly to the rhizobia bacteria that fixes atmospheric nitrogen in legume crops. Envita™ and Utrisha™ N are two options offered through the GROWMARK/FS System.”
To learn more about how to manage nitrogen applications or to explore biological nitrogen products, contact your local Southern States Agronomy Specialist.