Welcome to the third segment in the Key Cooperative nitrogen management series! In previous newsletters, I covered two core pieces of our SUSTAIN platform: nitrogen stabilizers and split application. In this final piece, I will cover nitrogen modeling. By utilizing stabilizers and a planned split application, many growers are off to a great start managing their 2017 nitrogen investment. But there is still a lot of growing season and nitrogen consumption left to go.
If our weather patterns remained constant, it would be easy to plan and time your nitrogen needs. But as we well know, no two years are ever the same. Take this year for example. We started the spring season with slightly above average rainfall in parts of our Key Cooperative trade territory, which caused some nitrogen leaching. Then, during the middle of the vegetative stage, we hit an abnormally dry spell with excessive heat, which all but stopped any leaching. This inconsistency makes us question what the best plan was for this crop year. Also, how do we know how much nitrogen was lost early on? How much did the June dry spell affect the crop’s nitrogen needs? What about the rest of the year, especially the grain-fill period? Historically, growers who split-applied nitrogen decided to do so prior to planting. They may pull a late-spring nitrate sample to verify the decision to side-dress, but if field conditions did not allow a sample to be pulled, this application may be made without this information. Today, we have several options for deciding how much nitrogen to apply (if any), the timing of the application and the products used. Below are some the options for you in 2017.
Nitrogen modeling (Climate and Adapt-N)
Nitrogen models allow us to better estimate what our nitrogen needs will be throughout the growing season. Traditionally, most of our nitrogen management plans were made prior to planting and remained the same throughout the growing season with little adjustment. If we wanted to get a handle on what was in the soil on a given date, we pulled a late-spring nitrate soil sample. While this sample was a great tool for measuring soil nitrate, it was a snapshot in time. If a major rain event happened after the sample was taken, another sample would need to be taken to account for the rainfall event. Today, tools for nitrogen modeling such as Climate and Adapt-N take into account soil type, planting date, nitrogen application date, use of stabilizers, past rainfall events and historical rainfall data to help estimate your nitrogen needs at any given date throughout the growing season.
Application (high-clearance spreaders and 360 Y-Drop®)
Traditionally, we were limited to a second application of nitrogen at lay-by time. Our equipment restricted us to making an application of nitrogen up to the early vegetative stage of corn. Advances in equipment have allowed us to top-dress urea up through the mid-vegetative stage of corn using high-clearance carts and spreaders. A second advancement in application technology has come to us through one of our partners, 360 Yield Center®. 360 Yield Center developed the Y-Drop system, which attaches to most self-propelled sprayers. This allows you to apply UAN through the late-vegetative stages of corn—up to tassel, depending on the sprayer. The system also places the nitrogen at the base of the corn plant, where it is more efficiently used.
As we have fine-tuned our ability to estimate our nitrogen needs throughout the season and effectively apply it, we have also fine-tuned the products we can use to meet our nitrogen needs. As we head into tassel, we approach our last chance to ensure we have all the nitrogen we need to maximize yield. While Y-Drop allows us to apply nitrogen late in the growing season, it does not fit all situations. Sometimes, aerial application is the best way to apply nitrogen, but products like UAN cannot be applied with a plane. Foliar fertilizers like SRN25B fit this need. SRN25B is a slow-release nitrogen combined with boron to help finish out a corn crop’s nitrogen needs. It is also safe on the crop and can be tank-mixed with most fungicides and insecticides.
As you can see, there are a lot of options available to you to fulfill your nitrogen needs. At Key Cooperative, we not only supply your nitrogen needs throughout the growing season, we can help you make good nitrogen decisions. Our Sales Agronomists and your local Nitrogen Advisor are there to help you make these choices. If you have any questions about nitrogen management on your farm or the SUSTAIN platform, please feel free to reach out to your local Key Cooperative Sales Agronomist.