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tractor applying nitrogen in cornfield Brooks Cardinal
SPLIT NITROGEN: Brooks Cardinal rigged up his nitrogen applicator so he could place part of the sidedress N closer to corn rows with Y-drops.

Farmer retools nitrogen applicator for sidedressing

This farmer wants to place sidedress N where it will do corn plants the most good.

You’ve heard talk in recent seasons about placing starter fertilizer at different locations at planting. You also know some people apply a portion of the total amount of nitrogen for the year later in the season, say at V10 or after, with high-clearance equipment. The goal is to place nutrients where they will do plants the most good, both early and throughout the season.

What you haven’t heard as much about is placing nitrogen in more than one location at sidedressing. Traditionally, sidedress applications involve injecting liquid nitrogen or anhydrous ammonia between corn rows. Brooks Cardinal, Oaktown, Know County, Ind., and his brother Brandon decided to go a step further in 2019 and place sidedress nitrogen in more than one location. They farm with their dad, Jerry.

“We keep looking for ways to get nitrogen where it needs to be when it needs to be there for high-yielding corn,” Cardinal says. “We decided we would still put a chunk of the nitrogen between the rows when we sidedressed, but also apply some closer to the rows.”

Multi-placement approach

The question was how to make that happen. It didn’t take the Cardinals long to come up with a solution. They rigged up their nitrogen applicator a bit differently in 2019. Instead of injecting all nitrogen through knives in the center between rows, 15 inches to each side of a corn row, they diverted part of it to Yield Center 360 Y-drops on either side of the center knife in each row.

It was simply a matter of rigging up the applicator toolbar with Y-drop tubes over each row, and replumbing it to deliver part of the nitrogen to the Y-drops.

“We set it up so that about two-thirds of the total amount of nitrogen we were sidedressing still went through the knife in the center of the bulk,” Cardinal explains. “The other one-third of the nitrogen went through a pair of Y-drops, putting nitrogen near the base of corn plants in each row.”

So, when the applicator went through the field, two-thirds of the sidedress nitrogen went into the bulk between rows, and one-third was split on each side of each row. They still applied the same total amount as normal.

Brooks CardinalY-drops place nitrogen close to corn rows during sidedressing

SIDEDRESS PLACEMENT: Thanks to Y-drops, part of the nitrogen during sidedressing was placed close to each corn row. The rest went in between rows.

“We were happy with the results,” Cardinal reports. “We got some nitrogen closer to the plants, where roots could get to it quicker.”

The Cardinals intend to use the applicator with both center knives and Yield Center 360 Y-drops next to rows again in 2020. This time, they will likely put half the nitrogen through the center knife and half through the Y-drops. They will also have access to a high-clearance rig equipped with Y-drops so they can apply some nitrogen later where they’re shooting for higher yields.

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