Margin Minute: Tame 'Wild Animal' Nitrogen

May 30, 2017 12:00 PM

Nitrogen is a “wild animal,” and the best way to manage it is to remove some of the emotion that factors into post-rainfall decisions with help from experts, says Chris Barron. The Iowa producer and Ag View Solutions consultant invites a special guest into the studio to share some of the ways to make the best nitrogen decisions for your fields this season.

“A couple of questions that I get are, ‘I applied 150 lb. of nitrogen in the fall, how much of that nitrogen is still left?’ Based off of the modeling that we utilize looking at weather, looking at soil types, looking at each field and its elevation and drainage, we can make a really educated answer to that question of how much we have lost from fall to today so we can accurately put on a sidedress application as needed,” explains Stacie Buhr, a certified service provider for DuPont Pioneer’s Encirca Services. “The other question I get is, ‘I applied manure in the fall and/or in the spring, and how much manure is left? Or how much nitrogen do I need coming into sidedress season?’”   

The answer to those questions is a matter of your farm’s business objectives.

“It all surrounds a yield target,” Buhr says. “We’re taking past years of yield and we’re applying that to future performance and how we wanted to reach our yield target or exceed it.”

The best nitrogen management begins before the new season gets underway.

“It starts before the spring. If you think back to when we applied much of our manure in the fall, it was a warm fall. It was a dry fall. And we were able to get in that field because we were out harvesting early. A lot of those applications went on in early October. That allowed us a lot of potential—doesn’t mean it happened—potential for nitrogen loss through some of our nitrogen sources,” Buhr says. “Then we fast-forward into springtime, where we’ve had a lot of rain in certain areas and, like you said, every field is different. If we say that every field is consistent, we’re probably not even accurate there. There’s a lot of variability within the field, as well. We’re taking the model and we’re looking at each of those different scenarios and modeling those out for the farmers so we can meet our yield targets in a cost-effective way.”

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