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Growers who sidedress nitrogen on corn see years where little to no additional N is needed to make corn yield goals (part 1 of 2)

April 29, 2015

2 Min Read

By Dan Crummett

This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two, More benefits of sidedress nitrogen applications on corn.

Mark Houts and Gary Siebert gave up single-shot fall-applied nitrogen management for their corn more than 30 years ago, and both say the move has boosted their corn yields in good years and saved them money when conditions were poor.

Related: Nutrient Balance is Necessary for Higher Global Corn Yields

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Longtime friends and neighbors, Houts and Siebert each grow corn and soybeans on more than 1,000 acres in western Ohio near Celina. Both apply and incorporate significant amounts of poultry or hog manure preplant. However, they'll each tell you the days are long gone when they depended upon preplant N applications to get them through the growing season.

"Thirty to 35 years ago, we used anhydrous ammonia preplant in the early spring – one big shot," Houts explains. "That was always a guessing game of how much N you needed, particularly when the season turned warm and wet, and we'd lose a lot of that N to leaching."

With a similar background, Siebert remembers "single shot" fall applications of N before corn planting and says he's convinced he uses less fertilizer by sidedressing corn, according to soil test results. With crop budgets tight, better management can reduce costs.

"If you preplant only, you always make sure you have enough left for the crop as it matures, so many years you overfertilize by doing that," he says.

Why every-year soil tests are worth it >>

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Soil tested every year

Now, both men say every acre of every farm they operate is soil-tested for nutrients every year. Based on those nutrient levels, they can better make decisions on how much N to spoon-feed corn crops from the V6 stage through the season until harvest.

Both report using less fertilizer because of the change in management, and recall years where fields or parts of fields required no additional N after the starter solution that accompanied seed into the ground.

"We've proven this to ourselves over the years with side-by-side tests on our farm," Houts says. "Any time you can maintain yields and cut back on fertilizer, that's money that goes straight to the bottom line."

For fertilizer prices, news and information, check out the Farm Futures Weekly Fertilizer Review.

Crummett writes from Oklahoma.

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