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
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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
Nachurs Alpine Solutions, Liquid fertilizer, micronutrients, facility
MicronutrientsYara Launching YaraVita Procote Liquid Micronutrients
March 31, 2015
Yara North America, Inc. broadens its fertilizer coating offerings with the introduction of YaraVita Procote, oil-based micronutrient liquid suspensions that Read More
Industry NewsINCOTEC Board Member To Retire
March 31, 2015
JanWillem Breukink has decided to retire from his position on INCOTEC’s Board of Directors, effective April 1, 2015. This was Read More
MicronutrientsAgrium Deals Michigan Micronutrient Facility To Cameron…
March 31, 2015
Cameron Chemicals, Inc. has announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Agrium Inc. to purchase the Read More
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Creates, Fills New Pacific Northwest Sales P…
March 30, 2015
H.J. Baker announced today that Gary Bingham has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division to further deepen its sales portfolio Read More
Algal blooms
StewardshipStudy: Algae From Clogged Waterways Could Be Used As Bi…
March 30, 2015
Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists are reporting Read More
Young corn plants
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit Coming To DC
March 30, 2015
The annual 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit will be held on May 12 in Washington DC. The summit will include a full Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More