Some of you have likely finished sidedressing corn. Others may be in the thick of it. Some of you may be waiting to make a final split application with a high-clearance sprayer a bit later in the season.
Crop Watch 6/5: In what growth stage is this corn seedling?
No matter how you do it, every time you apply nitrogen, you have the opportunity for loss of N and for injury of plants. Normally, it's not a big deal either way. But sometimes it is.
Here are a few examples.
Improper sealing: I stood 1,500 feet away and smelled anhydrous ammonia from a sidedressing application down the road. It was more than just a faint smell. To be that strong either the anhydrous wasn't being sealed properly into the ground or something was set wrong, letting anhydrous escape.
Either way, dollars were being lost. And depending on exactly what was happening, young corn plants might be exposed to anhydrous and could have shown signs of leaf burn. I later discovered that the farmer did indeed have trouble with the N applicator working properly in that field.
Spraying liquid N on top: Dave Mengel, a former Purdue University soil fertility Extension specialist, did work 30 years ago in the early days of no-till showing yield losses from applications of fertilizer, usually liquid 28% N, on the surface. Sometimes the losses could result in 20 to 30 bushel per acre yield losses.
His work led to more people buying rigs to inject liquid N below the surface. However, a new generation may need to learn the lesson again. There are still instances where N is being spread on the surface after planting and not being worked into the soil.
Crop Watch 6/1: Tale of the tape: Do you have the stand you want?
The result can be losses if warm, dry conditions follow the application. A rain soon after application should take a higher percentage of the N down into the soil and prevent N losses.