Sometimes You Just Have to Ask Yourself

ReachOut: Sometimes You Just Have to Ask Yourself from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

A few weeks ago I made the statement that we would take a journey and talk about Nitrogen at some point, and well here we are. With all that is going on in the world around us, we are challenged to become better at utilizing Nitrogen. I’m not saying that anyone is doing wrong, what I am saying is we all need to find a way to make a “step change” in how we manage this nutrient before someone tells us how to.

Your Central Valley Ag Advance Cropping Systems team has been challenged to help you improve your utilization of this very critical nutrient, not only because of the impact it makes on your bottom line, but the impact it has on the world. To do this, we have had not to unlearn, but rather deconstruct what we knew about Nitrogen. This changes how we recommend it, and we have to relearn and reconstruct how to do it with the new tools and technology. That being said over the next six weeks we are going to take a look at those things and start to piece the puzzle back together with your help.

This article is not just about how we have to change long term it’s about what you can do now to mitigate risk, and that starts with asking yourself a few questions. So, here we go?

The first place to start is a two part question with part one being: “Do I completely understand the loss risk of my primary source of Nitrogen?” Whether you are using Anhydrous Ammonia, Urea, or UAN; because they all are subject to loss. The pathways they go through to get there may be different, but they all have some level of risk, the decision on the form should not be made by what is cheapest, or what is easiest rather, but what is the right choice when it comes to mitigating risks.

The second part of that question should be: “What role does timing play in mitigating the risk for loss?” Trust me; this is a whole article in itself. In a few weeks, we will talk about different pools of nitrogen and what is at risk at any given time. Because when we understand that, we can better manage risk through timing.

How do placement and stabilizer products affect our risk for loss? This helps us determine the best way to protect the most stable and available form of N in the soil, which is Ammonium. Nitrogen on the soil surface is at a tremendous risk for loss, and Nitrogen in the soil solution is also at a sizable amount of risk for loss. So the question is how? Do we then use these two tools to help us lower those risks and keep our applied Nitrogen where it belongs?

Lastly how do these prior questions affect the optimum rate of Nitrogen that you apply? Our first thoughts may be that if we reduce our risk by 20% we should be able to reduce our rate by 20% and in some cases that is true. In other cases, the answer may be that to maximize yield and profitability you may want to increase your plant population. This isn’t always about reducing rate when it is more about optimizing performance.

We believe we are in a position to use all the tools that are available to us as your ACS group, combined with our skill and prior knowledge to help you make vast improvements in your operation. These changes will not only satisfy the outside world but will fulfill the demands of your operations profitability needs. We look forward to this miniseries about Nitrogen and you, it will be fun, educational, frustrating at times, entertaining and hopefully actionable. So it’s to put away what we have learned in the past and go back to school, we will see you in class.