Determining the Correct Nitrogen Rate for Your Field

Spring planting is just around the corner, and with it comes the age old question, “What is the right rate of Nitrogen for my field?”

A recent research paper published by Purdue University sums up Nitrogen (N) management succinctly: Nitrogen fertilizer costs remain volatile but continue to be one of the most expensive variable costs for corn. Applying “more than enough N” is no longer cheap “insurance” as it once was many years ago. Applying “more than enough N” is also not environmentally friendly.

High fertilizer costs and environmental impacts should encourage growers to critically evaluate their N fertility program, including application rate, fertilizer material, and timing.Here are a few tips for you to consider the right Nitrogen rate for your field this spring:

  • Customize applications. Tailor Nitrogen applications to each individual field. Because farmers are constantly striving to achieve higher yields, it’s not effective to try and use a general “one size fits all” recommendation.  That’s why it’s so important to first determine your needs with a soil test.
  • Soil test. Conduct a soil test to obtain a guideline of soil nutrients and needs. Purdue’s research paper stated some soils provide as little as 25% of the crop N requirement, the remainder coming from fertilizer N, while other soils provide in excess of 50% of the crop N demand, with a lesser amount needed from applied N. Thus, it’s vitally important to first determine soil needs before application. Through Latham’s Seed2Soil®program, we work with customers to conduct an Amino Sugar Nitrogen Test to help determine where Nitrogen rates need to be increased, maintained, or decreased.
  • Recognize timing differences. Certain hybrids respond better to Nitrogen at different times of the growing season. For instance, some hybrids will require an extra shot of Nitrogen when they begin the grain fill period directly after pollination. Work with your seed representative to determine the best timing for the products in your field.
  • Better for your pocketbook and the environment. The goal with Nitrogen management should be to place the right amount on the right acres at the right time. Latham’s Seed2Soil program helped reduce Nitrogen needs by 20-25 pounds, according to four years of research and in-field studies. Learn more about Latham’s Seed2Soil program.

Do you have any questions regarding Nitrogen management for your field?