Today in agriculture we live in a constant flow of multiple cycles of Planning, Execution, and Evaluation; whether that be decisions you made on seed selection and placement, crop protection decisions, irrigation and nitrogen management. The problem with that when it comes to this time of year is you are very task oriented with the harvest operations of this year, yet the planning and execution of next year are literally weeks away. This being “stuck” between two growing seasons sometimes leads to automatic decisions based on our operational memory.
Some of you may be thinking about a fall Nitrogen application as you are finishing up with harvest, or maybe your plan is to do what you historically have done and are ready to move from harvest operations to fertilizer applications as soon as you have the chance. I want to take some time in this article to give you some things to consider and discuss them with your Field Sales Agronomist as we transition from this season to the next.
Let’s start by discussing the pros and cons of fall Nitrogen applications by itself first and then move on to the other 4R aspects from there. The advantages to the fall timing of Nitrogen is mostly operational in nature, but they are advantages all the same. Fall applications allow us to spread some of the workloads and give you some operational breathing room, also gives you an opportunity to manage the cost of your nitrogen investment through historically lower prices and a cheaper source of N, and it reduces the risk of crop injury and compaction problems as compared to spring. The downside falls into the loss category, and mostly come from the influence time, and weather conditions will have on the Nitrogen cycle, and this my friends is where our conversation really needs to start. How do we use what we know to mitigate this loss potential and how does that affect our management.
So here is my humble agronomic opinion and you can take it for what its worth, the easiest and most impactful step we can take in Nitrogen management is manipulating timing. I am not saying move all your fall Nitrogen to spring but maybe a portion of it. It moves supply a bit closer to demand, helps us match application rates with the soils ability to hold Nitrogen, lowers the effects time and weather will have on the Nitrogen Cycle, and also spreads out your workload and gives you some operational flexibility when you need it most. To me a split of 60 percent in the fall and moving the remainder into the season, seems to make the most sense to me.
The next discussion that needs to be had is around Nitrogen Stabilizers even in areas that there are no current mandates for use, there still is a great amount of value to you and your operation. What the stabilizer group helps us do is mitigate the effects that weather and timing, enabling us to keep the Nitrogen we apply in the root zone longer making it available for uptake increasing efficiency. Over the past few years, the yield increase related to stabilizer use has been near 6.5 bushel which more than pays for itself and becomes increasingly important as we try to optimize our Nitrogen rates. The last thing I want you to consider is Variable Rate Nitrogen prescriptions, which can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. This is an important next step to help us match supply and demand and manage that capital allocation that I mentioned a few weeks ago. Your local FSA and Advanced Cropping System Specialist are second to none when it comes to making those prescriptions work best for you.
We talked earlier this year about our commitment to helping your operation stay above trend-line yield growth and become 10-15 percent more efficient and help you and your bottom line, this is not accomplished by doing one thing 100 percent better but doing everything we do 1-2 percent better. So all I am asking from you is to consider and work with one or all of these three things in your operation for 2017. Even the step of not going on autopilot for the planning of this particular management cycle is a step in the right direction.