Recent heavy rains in parts of the Midwest have all but erased soil water deficiencies... and then some. But as the rain is more than welcome, the resulting delays are making life on the farm a little complicated this year. Some growers were able to take advantage of narrow windows in the weather to apply fertilizer and put seed in the ground.
Just about that same time, a fresh layer of snow fell, blanketing the Corn Belt. But by then, the soil had thawed and the moisture had a good chance to soak in when the snow melted -- yes Virginia, there is nitrogen in snow. Then came the rains, and it has rained and rained and rained some more.
Most of the nitrogen applied, either in the fall or in the spring has been subject to leeching and runoff, and experts are advising additional nitrogen applications in areas where the rain has been the most heavy. Even before the clouds opened up, smaller rain events went straight to the spongelike subsoil, taking nitrogen with it, out of reach for developing root systems. Whatever N survived the subsoil soak may have done so just to wind up traveling through tile lines, into the creek and straight to the Gulf of Mexico.
The winners here will be the hardy few who took a chance and planted before applying nitrogen. Everyone else is expected by agronomists to see potentially significant N losses because of the weather and recommendations have surfaced that advise growers to apply as much as 75 lbs/acre of extra nitrogen to ensure the crop gets off to a good start.
Some growers will still have unused anhydrous while others have already booked UAN solutions for sidedress. But the nitrogen needs of emerging corn require an adequate and ready supply and as soil moisture levels have increased -- in some areas beyond the point of saturation -- soil nitrogen levels have likely decreased.
Soil conditions will dictate the timing of your next roll-out into the field, but experts advise a stiff dose of nitrogen on that day as priority one. Speak with your local agronomist, but consider giving your rain-weary corn a quick shot of early season nitrogen to insure seedlings have all they need to grow.
Photo credit: D Michaelsen, Inputs Monitor