How To Manage Nutrients For 2013

It’s apparent Mother Nature dealt farmers throughout much of the U.S. a rough, dry hand this past summer. As winter continues, it’s not too late to determine if crops hit by the 2012 drought left any residual nitrogen (N) or other nutrients in your soil profile.

“While the drought’s impact on crop production has been sobering, more than yield has been affected,” says T. Scott Murrell, North Central director with the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). “The cycle of every soil nutrient has been affected. This makes taking nutrient measurements more important than ever to ensure you apply the next application of nutrients at the right time, right place, right rate and from the right source.”

Murrell notes that residual soil nitrates can be higher after a drought where N was applied. This happens because of decreased downward soil water movement and reduced N uptake by drought-stressed plants. The effect of the 2012 drought on phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) is largely dependent on how the crop was managed. While less P and K may be removed at harvest as an outcome of lower grain yields, P and K removal could be greater than planned if the plant was cut for silage instead of harvested for grain.

With regard to N, farmers should be incorporating the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program and consider the following:

  • How much applied N is left in the soil profile?
  • How much of that N will remain in the soil until the spring?
  • What can be done to prevent its loss?
  • What adjustments need to be made to fertilizer rates for the next crop?

Sample, Analyze

Clifford S. Snyder, nitrogen program director with IPNI, says sampling is key, especially after a drought. This is because drought reduces crop uptake and removal of nutrients. Whether or not residual N will be available for the next crop depends greatly on the precipitation that occurs after harvest. In the Midwest, nitrate losses are associated with wet periods during fall, winter and early spring when roots are not actively taking up N.

Soil testing and plant analysis remain the best tools for quantifying the drought’s impact and adjusting nutrient management. Because states vary considerably in the suggestions for sampling, Snyder indicates consulting local guidance on sampling and discussing analytical results with a trusted and knowledgeable agronomist to ensure informed strategies are created to meet local conditions.

“It’s helpful to collect samples at least two to three feet deep in most soils and analyze them for nitrate-N,” he says. “It’s hard to do this manually, so consider using a hydraulic or powered sampler. When collecting samples to two or three feet deep, it is helpful to partition samples into nominal depths (e.g. 0 to 6, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24,etc.) to identify where the concentration of nitrate is in the soil profile and determine risks and magnitude of loss from the root zone.”

Snyder adds that taking samples during a drought year and examining the changes can provide valuable information for improved interpretations when dry weather strikes again. Additionally, before beginning the 2013 planting season and through the late spring, a soil nitrate test should be used to adjust N application rates to more closely match what the plant needs but the soil lacks.

Planting A Cover Crop?

A catch crop is a cover crop planted for the express purpose of taking up residual soil nitrate. USDA ARS research in central Iowa shows that a winter cover crop of wheat following corn can reduce tile drain nitrate-N losses as much as 60%.

“A well-established cover crop can result in uptake and retention of more than 40 lbs to 60 lbs of N per acre,” Snyder says. “Just N savings alone are valued at more than $15 to $25 per acre.” He adds that a good cover crop can serve as an “N bank” and release plant N via microbial decomposition of crop residues after the cover crop is mechanically or chemically terminated. In addition to conserving N, cover crops can protect water quality.

With most cover crops already planted, spring management of the crop should be considered. Murrell indicates that times to kill cover crops will depend on the crop to be planted and soil moisture. For corn, cover crops should be killed two weeks before planting, but if soils are dry, earlier killing may be needed. Soybeans are less sensitive and cover crops may be killed up to three days ahead of planting unless it is dry, then earlier killing is needed as well.

Information Available

Murrell and Snyder concur that this latest drought has given farmers tough nutrient management challenges. They should be addressed with as much information as possible and with the 4R stewardship practices in mind. IPNI has assembled additional nutrient management guidance here. More information about the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program is also available here.

“The effects of drought on crop nutrition are profound,” Murrell says. “Soil testing and plant analysis, combined with sound nutrient stewardship, remain our best tools to quantify drought impacts and adjust nutrient management for next year’s crop.”

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More

Trending Articles

CropLife 100Agrium To Cut 500 Jobs, Sell Some Businesses
November 11, 2014
Among the businesses Agrium will try to sell are its micronutrients and European UAN (urea-ammonium nitrate) lines. Read More
HerbicidesMonsanto, Sumitomo Chemical And Valent Extend Crop Protection Collaboration
November 10, 2014
The agreement extends their strategic partnership in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Management Solutions platform for soybeans and cotton in the U.S. Read More
FertilizerCorn Rootworm Hybrids And Potassium Uptake
November 4, 2014
To achieve successful yields, grower-customers can’t afford to cut back on their potassium use with corn rootworm hybrids, say experts. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More

Latest News

EquipmentAGCO Announces Operator Of The Year Finalists
November 20, 2014
Four custom applicators have been selected by AGCO Application Equipment as finalists for 2014 Operator of the Year, an honor that recognizes them as being among the top professionals in their industry throughout North America. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 20, 2014
H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
soybean field
FertilizerGeneral Mills Honors United Suppliers For Nitrogen Opti…
November 19, 2014
United Suppliers winning proposal detailed SUSTAIN, a consulting network that provides customized products and services for farmers using a needs-based system approach. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholar…
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
ManagementServi-Tech Names New CEO
November 17, 2014
Servi-Tech has named Greg Ruehle its new president and CEO. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Ag Acquires Colorado Aerial Application Outlet
November 17, 2014
Ft. Lupton, CO-based Reck Aviation — a full-service chemical application company providing aerial crop applications of fertilizers and crop protection products — will operate as part of Pinnacle's AgOne Application Services brand. Read More
Eric SfiligojMcDonald’s Message: Biotech Crops Scarier Than Cancer
November 17, 2014
Despite their potential health benefits, one of the world’s largest potato users will pass on a new biotech offering. Read More
MicronutrientsWinField Releases 2014 NutriSolutions Results
November 14, 2014
A number of significant regional and national crop deficiency trends emerged from the 2014 WinField NutriSolutions tissue sampling program. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Opens Chinese Production Lines
November 14, 2014
The occasion was the official launch of the Tiger-Sul sulphur Bentonite production line of two much anticipated fertilizer products in China, T90CR sulphur fertilizer and TZinc micronutrient enhanced sulphur fertilizer. Read More
ManagementOhio Certified Crop Adviser Program Accepting Nominatio…
November 14, 2014
The award recognizes an individual who delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production in Ohio. Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta Announces Acuron Trial Plot Results
November 14, 2014
Acuron was tested at 167 trial locations across 35 states. Trials included 95 Syngenta locations, 54 university locations and 18 distributor locations. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Expands Sales Force
November 13, 2014
The new sales representatives will work with growers, retail partners and distributors to oversee technical training and product education. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Raises $100K For Wounded Warrior Project
November 13, 2014
AGCO Corp. partnered with local AGCO dealers across the U.S. and Canada to raise nearly $100,000 in support of wounded service veterans. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Launch Of Enlist Duo Herbici…
November 12, 2014
It will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 12, 2014
Agricultural firm H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
Blenders13 Fertilizer Blenders For 2015
November 12, 2014
Dealers can find a fertilizer blender to deliver any speed, volume and custom mix they want. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Vice President Receives Honorary FFA Award
November 11, 2014
Jim Loar, vice president of operations of Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness Division, was awarded the Honorary American FFA Degree at the 2014 National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, KY. Read More
FertilizerBASF Makes Limus Nitrogen Management Available In U.S.
November 11, 2014
Reducing ammonia losses by more than 90%, Limus nitrogen management has demonstrated increased crop yields on average of 6%, according to 2013 replicated research. Read More