By: Ron Geis, Market Development Specialist, Iowa, Corteva Agriscience
Nitrogen is one of the single biggest expenses for farmers, and a lot of times, we hope that mother nature helps in keeping it where it should be. Relying on nature to take good care of your nitrogen is risky, but the good news is a smart nutrient management plan can help mitigate some of that risk.
Nutrient management, and nutrient success, requires preplanning and a good understanding of how corn takes up nitrogen, what the soil in your area requires and what’s needed to increase yield. Taking the time to help your customers preplan their nutrient management now can really make a difference in how their fields and yield looks by this time next year.
How to plan for 2020 nutrient needs
When building your 2020 nutrient management plan, it’s important to first consider the entire system and look at factors like soil type, weather patterns, past yield history and previous application rates and combinations. This will help identify how much nitrogen will be needed to raise a bushel of corn in the coming season and what actions need to occur throughout the year to achieve this.
Beyond a depth of knowledge of the operation location and conditions, there are other tools to help uncover nutrient needs so a solid nutrient management plan can be built accordingly.
- Digital tools
Drone and imagery scouting has grown in popularity and has proven to be a helpful tool in providing a complete look at your customers’ fields. These tools help map problem areas that need some nutrient TLC and can help around harvest as we begin planning nutrient needs for next year. Drones and imagery can also be used next spring and summer to help calculate where nutrient corrections need to happen in-season.
- Variable applications
Beside the great digital tools that allow us to see deficiencies early enough to take action, nutrient management plans should include the practice of variable applications of nutrients and occasionally crop protection products. This helps maximize the efficiency of your applied nutrients by going to the soil when crops need it most and protects against overapplying nutrition.
- Nitrogen stabilizers
Nitrogen stabilizers, such as N-Serve® and Instinct®, are an important component to a nutrient management plan because they help provide a sense of insurance to applied nitrogen. They extend the availability of nitrogen in the soil so it’s there during critical growth phases. Additionally, nitrogen stabilizers protect nitrogen from leaching and denitrification, so your nitrogen will be less vulnerable to loss in variable weather conditions.
Where to start? What can be done now?
From now through harvest, retailers should focus on fall nitrogen applications and get a head start mapping out nutrient needs and methods of protecting nitrogen with their customers. Retailers should talk with hog producers and manure applicators about applying Instinct directly to their pits. They should also talk to fall anhydrous ammonia users about stabilizing with N-Serve.
When it comes to fall nitrogen application, it’s best to wait for cooler temperatures and refrain from applying too early so you don’t lose valuable nitrogen. The ideal application range is at 50 F and falling. Nitrate conversion stops around 40 F, which typically in the Midwest is around late November. By using a nitrogen stabilizer with fall applications, you will have that nitrogen protected through the heavy rain periods in April and May. And, really, this is the best way to begin your 2020 nutrient management plan.
In summary, good nutrient management not only helps with yield and can be a differentiating margin opportunity for you but also is helpful to your customers’ investments, bottom line and the environment.
About the author: Ron Geis is a market development specialist at Corteva Agriscience. He started his career in 1984 with DuPont Crop Protection, working the first 15 years in southern Nebraska and the past 20 years in northern Iowa. He has been Certified Crop Adviser since the program’s inception.