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How Do I Minimize Nitrogen Tie-up in Corn on Corn?

Jan 04, 2012

Question: If you don't have access to sidedress equipment, what is the best alternative in a corn-on-corn rotation to minimize nitrogen tie-up and grow the best corn crop possible?

Answer: Residue breakdown varies depending on what part of the country you are located in. In general, in corn on corn from the mid-U.S. to the North, residue breakdown is slower due to cool temperatures. In the South, it is less of an issue, since warm temperatures help to break down the corn on corn residue. In central Illinois and the eastern and northern Corn Belt, we typically recommend applying 100 lb. N/acre (may be different in your area) up front to handle the carbon penalty in corn on corn. These 100 lb. should be a mix of broadcast N and starter fertilizer; the remainder of the N needed for the corn crop is then sidedressed.
 
In your situation, where sidedress is not possible, starter fertilizer could play a more important role for applying N (in addition to P). Applying N in a 2x2 band along with your P will help. Depending on your soil type (rates will vary), consider applying a portion of the N with the corn planter in a band at least 2x2 away from the seed. I would still recommend some broadcast N preplant in addition to the starter to help break down residue. The remainder of your N needs could be applied preplant broadcast or banding, depending on the source. Consider using a stabilizer product for this application. Another option would be applying UAN with the corn planter between 3" and 4" away from the seed at higher rates; however, you would want a closer placement for the P. Some growers who do not have a sidedress bar have applied UAN sidedress with a sprayer setup with drop nozzles in between the rows. A stabilizer to prevent volatilization is very important here. 
 
Although they aren’t needed in large quantities, micronutrients play a big role in plant health.
With many nitrogen inhibitors and products on the market, Ken Ferrie has some easy-to-follow tips to make sure you are getting the correct response to your fertility program.
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