Spring is knocking on the door and while it doesn't feel like it, it's time to start thinking about winter wheat coming out of dormancy. Having nitrogen available for early spring growth is essential to top yields.
Steve Gauck, agronomist with Beck's Hybrids, offers three things to keep in mind when applying nitrogen.
• Knowing when and how much nitrogen to apply is key, each field needs to assessed for stand, stage and tillering
• Later maturing fields and fields with fewer tillers need more nitrogen, earlier
• The risk of early application however, is nitrogen loss later in the spring, a nitrification inhibitor can help protect that loss
Phil Needham, of Needham Ag Technologies, stresses the need for uniform application, and prefers two to three feedings of nitrogen. Splitting the application increases the nitrogen used efficiency, reduces lodging potential, and allows till management.
Tillering can be encouraged with higher rates of nitrogen, earlier in the season, targeting application near Feekes growth stage 3, which is when formation of tillers is complete. However, already thick winter wheat stands should receive nitrogen later in the season, if possible, occurring near Feekes Growth Stage 5-6, or about the time the first node appears.
Ideally application should be split into two or more passes. Needham recommends the use of stream bars to apply liquid nitrogen, as they are not dependent on boom height to distribute product evenly.
Of course all of these elements must be balanced with the window of opportunity to apply, which can be limited. It doesn't matter what your intentions are if fields are impassable.
Using assessment of the crop potential can help fine tune your nitrogen rates and timing, either by you or a crop scouting agency therefore helping you achieve maximum yield. Many resources exist to determine growth stages and proper application rates.