Understanding N Utilization, Minimizing Loss

With a balmy winter already under our belts and the prospect of an even dryer summer than 2011 looming, the recent CropLife Media Group Webinar, “Understanding Nitrogen Utilization And Minimizing Loss,” tackled a rather timely topic for growers and ag retailers. Speakers during the presentation were Dr. Barney Gor­­don, agronomic consultant/professor emeritus, Kansas State University, and Dave Schwartz, vice president of sales and business development, Specialty Fer­tilizer Products (SFP).

Gordon started the discussion by examining how crucial proper nitrogen (N) management is to crop yield. For example, in order for a grower to produce an average yield of 250 bushels of corn per acre, one would need to supply that crop with 188 pounds of N per acre.

Sounds easy. Not so fast, said Gordon.

“We all know that nitrogen can be pretty tricky,” he said. “It’s an unusual element and it can be lost in many different ways.”

There are four distinct mechanisms of nitrogen loss in the field:

  • Immobilization. Especially a problem in no-till operations with heavy surface residue, N is being utilized by microbes that live in the soil rather than the crop it is intended for. Placing fertilizer away from carbon can reduce the risk of this occurring.
  • Denitrification. When applying nitrate on heavier, clay-based soils, involves the gaseous loss of N. Warm temperatures greatly increase the risk of occurrence.
  • Ammonia Volatilization. More of a problem with urea and urea-containing products, this is the gaseous loss of ammonia from surface-applied urea. Generally worse in no-till conditions, the evaporation of drying water is the driving force. Gordon cited several factors that affect this process, among them: pH level, temperature, ammonia concentration, soil texture characteristics and moisture, wind speed and concentration of the urease enzyme.
  • Leaching. The downward movement of N molecules in the nitrate form, this is more of a problem on sandier soils with large pore spaces. The longer the time between fertilization and uptake, the more risk incurred.“Losses with volatilization can be significant, up to around 10% to 20% of the applied N, and they can happen quite rapidly when conditions are ideal,” said Gordon.

UAN Factors

Gordon then presented a study concerning UAN (urea + N) application methods. Observing corn fields in Scandia, KS, between 2008-09, Gordon found that of the three most common application methods (broadcast, dribbled and knifed), knifed produced the highest average yield at 188 bushels per acre. Comparably, broadcasting the UAN mixture brought an average yield of 168 bushels per acre.

“Knifing that nitrogen in under the residue takes care of a lot of those volatilization problems,” said Gordon. “It does not do anything to denitrification, it doesn’t solve the leaching problem, but it does take care of that volatilization problem that we had with urea and urea-containing fertilizers.”

However, for those growers that use the broadcast method, Gordon offers the following options to slow N loss:

  • Urease Inhibitors. These are used to control volatilization. Agrotain (nBTPT) is an example of a urease inhibitor as it deactivates the urease enzyme, thus preventing the hydrolysis of urea.
  • Controlled release N. Urea granule is coated but allows water to diffuse across the membrane. N release is then temperature controlled. ESN from Agrium is an example.
  • Long-chain liquid polymer coating of urea. UAN — Nutri­sphere-N from SFP, is an example. Nutrisphere-N sequesters nickel (Ni) ions in urease and bio available Ni ions in the soil. The result is a slowed hydrolosis of urea. It also acts as a nitrification inhibitor by sequestering iron and copper out of the soil with the result being slower nitrification.

In summary, subsurface application of N is the most efficient application method, but if surface applying, banding is more efficient than broadcasting. If broadcasting, there are products available that can minimize N losses and improve efficiency, said Gordon.

Schwartz agreed. “In 184 total corn trials that we’ve run with Nutrisphere-N treated urea, there’s an average bushel per acre yield increase of 14.9, which is a 7.7% increase overall,” he said. “The beauty of this product is the longevity with which it performs. It has that length of control that can get you through lots of different types of loss activities, and the multitudes of losses that it covers makes it a very broad spectrum product for a retailer.”

Additionally, in 15 wheat trials with Nutrisphere-N treated urea, a 7.3 bushel per acre yield increase (11%) was observed.

“You have to find something that really fits all the different methods of application and gives you a wide spectrum of use options to keep your customers happy,” said Schwartz. “I really see this being a good product for the custom applicator.”

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerPhosphorus: Is Band Or Broadcast Application The Better Method?
February 3, 2016
Is band or broadcast application the better method when it comes to phosphorus? The answer to this question depends mostly Read More
Potash storage at Growmark
FertilizerThe Phosphate And Potash Outlook For 2016
February 2, 2016
Like other commodities, prices of the leading plant nutrient products dropped sharply in 2015. At this writing, the price of Read More
Young Corn Plants
FertilizerNutrient Considerations For Low Corn Prices
February 2, 2016
Corn prices are low and many producers are asking tough questions about their nutrient management programs. Here are some suggestions Read More
Granular urea from CF Industries urea plant in Donaldsonville, LA
FertilizerWhat’s In Store For Nitrogen In 2016
February 2, 2016
Supply is the overriding theme for the North American 2016 nitrogen outlook. In the last 12 months, global factors have Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
Crop Protection Products in storage
Crop InputsNewsweek: World Is ‘Awash In Glyphosate’
February 11, 2016
The world is awash in glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, produced by Monsanto. It has now become Read More
Crop InputsEPA: Let’s Talk Imidacloprid, Bees On February 18
February 11, 2016
EPA will hold an online technical briefing on its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, on Feb. Read More
ManagementThe latest on Syngenta-ChemChina Deal
February 11, 2016
Executive Editor Paul Schrimpf invites Jackie Pucci and Dave Frabotta from sister publication AgriBusiness Global to discuss the latest developments Read More
AdjuvantsUniversity of Illinois Confirms Adjuvant’s Perfor…
February 11, 2016
An independent University of Illinois study has shown that WETCIT adjuvant, now with TransPhloem technology, provides greater herbicide uptake and Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta’s Acuron Flexi Receives EPA Approval
February 11, 2016
Growers looking to control their toughest weeds with flexibility will have access to Acuron Flexi corn herbicide from Syngenta, now Read More
EquipmentAGCO Showcases White Planters 9800VE Series Planters AT…
February 11, 2016
AGCO unveiled the new White Planters 9800VE Series planter during the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY. The Read More
EquipmentCase Unveils 2000 Series Early Riser Planter At NFMS
February 10, 2016
Case IH revealed the all-new 2000 Series Early Riser planter to media and attendees at the opening of the National Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta: Keep Ag In Mind During Election Season
February 10, 2016
As presidential candidates stake out their 2016 election platforms and key priorities, growers and their business partners should seek opportunities Read More
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More