Norder Blog

Dude, Where’s My Nitrogen


“What do you suppose happened to my nitrogen I applied last fall?”  This question has been asked more than a few times this spring.  If you live in South Central Nebraska, the winter has been quite dry and warm.  The above average temperatures in January and most of February may have begun the process of converting your applied nitrogen from ammonium to nitrate, which is something we do not want to happen this early in the season since Nitrate is susceptible to leaching.

The use of a nitrogen stabilizer (nitrification inhibitor) with your anhydrous ammonia application will slow the conversion of ammonium to nitrate, preventing potential leaching losses.  Since this winter has been rather dry, there is probably very little difference in available nitrogen whether you used a stabilizer on not.  If we receive significant moisture this spring, differences may start to show up.  For growers who have waited until spring to apply their nitrogen, a nitrogen stabilizer is still a great thing to consider.  One must select the correct stabilizer for the product and type of application being used.  A urease inhibitor should be used with over the top of the ground applications of Urea or UAN solutions to prevent volatilization of the urea. Urease inhibitors do not protect against leaching losses of nitrate.

The amount of nitrogen you applied is only a fraction of the total nitrogen that will be utilized by the growing plants this summer.  Mineralized nitrogen from the soils organic matter will also be available to the plants.  With the warmer fall and winter temperatures, we will probably have a little extra plant available nitrogen early in the season, before plants are able to uptake and utilize it.  Should weather trends change to cool and wet, we can potentially loose a significant amount of this additional nitrogen and still have nitrogen deficiencies late in the growing season.

There are multiple platforms available to growers to model and visualize their field’s nitrogen trends.  I recommend that growers look in to using a crop model to assist with making nitrogen management decisions in season.  Crop modeling along with a soil sample and plant tissue testing regimen, can help growers increase yields or possibly save expenses by dialing in their nitrogen needs. Knowing that significant nitrogen loss may have occurred, growers can choose to apply additional nitrogen in season, limiting surprises at harvest time.

Your Norder Supply Agronomist can provide solutions and tools for your nitrogen management needs, and is here to assist our growers in achieving maximum net return per acre.

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