Do you already have your nitrogen purchased? Do you know when you intend to apply it? Will you apply it pre-sidedress, or wait and sidedress it? Will some of it go down with starter fertilizer?
Now is the time to have a plan, even if weather forces you to adjust it later.
Steve Gauck, an agronomist with Beck's Hybrids, based in Greensburg, talked about nitrogen management when he addressed more than 250 farmers at the 20th annual No-Till breakfast sponsored by the Ripley County Soil and Water Conservation District earlier this month. His topic was soil health. To get soil health, you need to grow good crops, using good management practices, he says.
When it comes to nitrogen, it's all about four key things, Gauck believes. First, you need to put it in the right place. Put it where roots can get to it. That was a problem in 2012 when there was so little moisture in some fields that the roots couldn't even access N sidedressed after planting. Some people in hard-hit areas planted cover crops to pick up that nitrogen instead of letting it go out tile lines. Pictures showing taller, greener cover over the injection sites for nitrogen tend to indicate that the cover crops did their job. Once killed this spring, they will begin to release the nitrogen, but it can be a slow process.
You also need the right form of N. Choose the form that best fits your operation. Next is the right time, Gauck says. On soils with low cation exchange capacity, like sands or many low organic matter soils in southeast Indiana, it probably doesn't make sense to apply lots of ammonia pre-plant. These types of soils usually respond better when spoon fed nitrogen with several applications during the year, he notes.
Finally, you need the right rate. Rely on your yield goals, then stay with what's realistic based on farm history and they type of soil you have.