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

Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
CF Industries Port Neal, IA plant
Crop InputsNitrogen Outlook 2017
February 3, 2017
It’s no secret that the global supply of nitrogen has been increasing significantly in recent years, helping drive down prices Read More
Fertilizer Potash
Crop InputsThe Phosphorus/Potash Outlook For 2017
February 2, 2017
If the old adage that “the cure for low prices is low prices” holds true, then phosphorus (P) and potash Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate Vote For Secretary Of Transportation
February 2, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Elaine Chao to serve Read More
Trending Articles
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Latest News
Roy Blunt
LegislationARA Recognizes Blunt, Heitkamp For Legislative Efforts …
February 17, 2017
Agricultural industry continues to face federal regulatory challenges. Thankfully, agriculture’s allies in the U.S. Senate stepped forward. The Agricultural Retailers Read More
LegislationThe Fertilizer Institute Commends Senate On Confirmatio…
February 17, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn issued the following statement on the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Read More
Trump, Senate, Cabinet
LegislationBREAKING: Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Confirmed by S…
February 17, 2017
Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various Read More
ManagementFebruary Road Trip Edition
February 17, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent visits to Indiana and Kentucky. Read More
Heritage Cooperative Finished Building Aerial
ManagementHeritage Cooperative, Agland Co-op Approve Merger
February 17, 2017
Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative stockholders have both approved the merger agreement between Agland Co-op and Heritage Cooperative. Now begins Read More
LegislationARA Fly-In: Ag Retail Descends on Capitol Hill, Lawmake…
February 15, 2017
More than 100 agricultural retailers, distributors and suppliers headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning for the Agribusiness Congressional Fly-in, according to a Read More
Untreated soybean seed Heartland Coop
Seed/BiotechMarrone Bio Innovations, Groundwork BioAg Bio-stacked M…
February 13, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd have announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological Read More
NL5000 With G5 Technology
SpreadersNew Leader Introduces NL5000 Dry Nutrient Applicator Wi…
February 13, 2017
New Leader, a division of Highway Equipment Company (HECO), has announced the next generation of spreading technology with the NL5000 Read More
Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Agrees To Credit Agreement Amendme…
February 9, 2017
Pinnacle Operating Corp. has entered into an amendment (the “Amendment”) to its First Lien Credit Agreement that will provide for, Read More
ManagementUpdates on Upcoming Trips, Dow-DuPont, and the Des Moin…
February 9, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj review a few future travels, along with the latest on big company mergers and Read More
Championship Tractor Pull
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Highlighted By Championshi…
February 9, 2017
The scream of monster engines, the stench of burning rubber and the ground-pounding vibrations of the country’s largest, loudest and Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
Corn Field
InsecticidesArysta LifeScience, DuPont Collaborate On Rynaxpyr Prem…
February 8, 2017
Arysta LifeScience recently announced that it has entered into a global collaboration with DuPont Crop Protection for the development of Read More
Industry NewsThe Fertilizer Institute Board Elects New Chairman, Vic…
February 8, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) Board of Directors has elected Chuck Magro, President and CEO of Agrium, and Tony Will, President Read More
Sonny Perdue
ManagementARA Joins More Than 600 Organizations In Support Of Per…
February 8, 2017
The Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) recently joined with more than 600 agricultural groups on a letter of support for Governor Read More
World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit Panel 2016
Crop InputsWorld Agri-Tech Innovation Summit To Be Held In San Fra…
February 8, 2017
“Breakthrough Applications and Business Models for Sustainable Farming” is the theme of the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit to be held Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojConsolidation In Agriculture: More Middle Movement
February 7, 2017
If you’ve regularly followed my column, you know I’m something of a movie junkie. Like many, one of my favorite Read More