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Sidedress application provides N for corn when it’s most neededSidedress application provides N for corn when it’s most needed

Farmers who applied lower preplant rates or lost nitrogen to the environment can adjust with a sidedress.

June 12, 2017

6 Min Read
TIMING: New technologies, like Y-Drops, make sidedressing UAN more efficient. It’s all about applying nitrogen at the right time, no matter what form is used.

This year much of the Corn Belt was pelted with 7 to 10 inches of rain in 10 days, so if farmers applied 100% of their nitrogen in a preplant application, they likely lost a great deal of N to the environment. But farmers can adjust their N plans and apply more N in a sidedress application to make up for any applied preplant N that may have been lost. A sidedress application can ensure corn gets the N it needs when it needs it most.

Corn takes up about 70% of its N between V4 to R1 growth stages. From the V8 leaf stage through tasseling, N uptake is about 4 to 8 pounds per day. Most sidedress applications occur at V6 to V8 growth stages, which are in early to mid-June in much of the Corn Belt. This allows a standard spray rig to safely make a pass through the field without damaging corn plants, and provides the N just before the corn begins its rapid uptake. This timing minimizes the time N sits in the field and is susceptible to loss to the environment. However, that doesn’t mean the N applied as a sidedress isn’t at risk to environmental loss.

Protect your N in a sidedress application
“We did a lot of research seven to 10 years ago and found there’s actually a higher percentage of N lost to the environment through volatilization, denitrification and leaching during that sidedress application than in a preplant application, which was kind of an eye-opener,” says Dave Schwartz, executive vice president of sales and plant nutrition for Verdesian Life Sciences. “Protecting he N in a sidedress application provides a very viable return on investment for farmers.”

Weather is the determining factor when it comes to N loss, with N being susceptible to leaching when there is water moving through the soil, denitrification under saturated conditions, and volatilization under hot and dry conditions. Farmers can’t predict the weather, and would be wise to protect their N investment, says Darin Lickfeldt, senior technical development manager for Verdesian.

“Farmers risk losing their investment in N, not receiving the benefits to their corn crop and not maximizing their yield,” says Lickfeldt. “It takes about 1 pound of N per acre to produce about 1 bushel of corn grain per acre. So if you lose 10 pounds of N to the environment, that’s 10 pounds not making grain. Farmers are paid based on how much grain they produce, so protecting every pound of N should result in another bushel per acre of corn yield.”

Counting on 10-bushel increase
So, if the price of corn is $3.50 per bushel, and you can add 10 bushels per acre by decreasing N loss with NutriSphere-N Fertilizer Manager, that’s $35 more per acre, which provides an ROI of 2.8 to 3.8 to 1. For every dollar spent on NutriSphere-N, the grower could get back $2.80 to $3.80. More than 400 trials over a period of 11 years show that NutriSphere-N provides that 10-bushel yield increase, and there was a positive yield enhancement 90% of the time.

“Over the years we’ve done a lot of trial work, and we’re seeing about a 10- to 12-bushel-per-acre average increase over all of the years. However, in extreme situations, you can see as much as 30- to 40-bushel-per- acre increases,” says Schwartz, who farms in Guthrie Center. “When you factor in the water quality element of losing 30% to 50% of applied N going out the tile line, NutriSphere-N offers one of the best returns on investment a farmer can make.”

Protect against 3 routes of N loss
One reason NutriSphere-N provides that ROI is because it protects N from loss caused by volatilization, leaching and denitrification, a distinct advantage over competitive products that protect against only one or two forms of loss. NutriSphere-N is available in several different formulations that can be used on urea, urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) and anhydrous ammonia (NH3), ammonium sulfate and aqua ammonia, and each form of N presents its own challenges regarding loss to the environment.

Urea can very quickly volatilize by way of the urease enzyme that causes gaseous loss of ammonia, so if you surface-apply a lot of urea, it will be susceptible to volatilization loss, says Lickfeldt. NutriSphere-N quick dry orange (QDO) or granular formulations are available for farmers applying urea. UAN is usually surface-applied, but because it is a liquid, it generally moves down into the soil an inch or two more easily than urea.

However, UAN is still susceptible to loss, and NutriSphere-N liquid or NutriSphere-N HV for high-volume UAN applications, are available for UAN. While most of the sidedress applications are made with urea or UAN, some farmers may inject anhydrous ammonia 9 to 12 inches deep into the soil profile with NutriSphere-NH3, making N less susceptible to loss, provided it is injected correctly.

Make sure you inject N correctly
In addition to protecting N from loss, farmers can also follow the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship to ensure their sidedress applications are as precise and efficient as possible. The 4Rs call for applying the right source, right rate at the right time and in the right place. Lickfeldt recommends using a liquid fertilizer protected with NutriSphere-N, with about 25% to 50% of total N applied in a sidedress at V6 to V8 growth stage and banded close to the row.

“We like sidedress applications within 3 to 6 inches of the row,” says Lickfeldt. “If you’re going to band it right on the row, you can surface-apply it. But if you are applying it between two rows, usually about 15 inches from the row, we like it knifed in 1 to 2 inches deep.”

Using new application technology
New technologies have made more precise placement of sidedressed N easier for farmers. 360 Y-Drop from 360 Yield Center features a Y-shaped drop tube, allowing farmers to put liquid N closer to the base of the plant.

“Some of the new technologies, like Y-Drops, make UAN use in a sidedress more efficient, but it’s all about getting the N on the acres at the right time, no matter what form of N you are using,” says Schwartz. “Having the proper amount of N going into the time of highest N uptake is critical. Hitting that window is something that can be very challenging. We’ve learned a lot over the past 10 to 15 years about managing N. Putting on split N applications is a best practice, and protecting it with NutriSphere-N takes it to the highest level, where all growers need to go to maximize their investment in their crop and protect the environment.”

Source: Verdesian Life Sciences

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