Some of you readers may have caught on to something. I have a few topics that are my favorites and are a part of my greatest hits collection. Much like planters, data, and compaction, one of my favorite things to talk about is nitrogen. There are a few reasons for that, one of them being that next to oxygen it is the next most important nutrient or element for your operation. The other being that from an input standpoint it is second only to seed on the variable cost lineup card. It is no great wonder that Dr. Fred Below equals it to weather when it comes into the yield equation. Well actually it is one of his 7 WONDERS of high yielding corn.
I think to fully be able to manage nitrogen efficiently we need to have a better understanding of the concepts of how nitrogen interacts in both the soil and the plant. Nitrogen exists in the soil system in multiple forms, and it changes (transforms) very easily from one form to another. The route that N follows in and out of the soil system is collectively called the “nitrogen cycle” and is biologically influenced. Biological processes, in turn, are influenced by prevailing climatic conditions along with the physical and chemical properties of a particular soil. The understanding of the particular conditions that influence each of these biological processes is critical to being able to better manage N in the future.
Nitrogen is an important component in many important structural, genetic and metabolic compounds inside the plants’ cells. It is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound by which plants use sunlight in photosynthesis, producing sugars from water and carbon dioxide. It is also a major component of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. These proteins are either used as structural units in plant cells, or as enzymes that drive biochemical reactions. Nitrogen also is needed to form energy transfer compounds such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which allows plant cells to conserve and use energy released in metabolism. Finally, nitrogen is a significant component of nucleic acids such as DNA, which ultimately allows cells and whole plants to grow and reproduce.
Managing nitrogen is really as much art as it is science; we are going to spend the next few weeks talking more about managing nitrogen. We are going to dive a little deeper into those biological processes in the soils, and also in the plant. We will discuss how to better mitigate losses with timing or products that inhibit the biological processes in the soil. The last thing this month we will talk about is how to better manage nitrogen through precision applications. The nitrogen cycle is not really that complicated to envision, even though the chemistry is. I know my dedication to this topic probably seems a bit overbearing to say the least, but it is an important one to managing your productivity and profitability in the future so please stay tuned…