The Big N Application

February 7, 2019

The Big N Application from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

In the end, there is the beginning – The Big N Application

It has been over two months now since I started the conversation we have had this winter about splitting up our Nitrogen application. And I have heard back from many of you during this series. The conversation that has sparked the most questions from you all so far has been using our planter for Nitrogen Application. And while that conversation has been largely inquisitive with positive feedback, there was a simple foreshadowing statement I made in that first video/article that a few caught. That statement has caused some to fear, and some to celebrate what is coming this week.

Of course, we cannot talk about nitrogen and timing and such without talking about our “one big application.” For some of you that is fall anhydrous, for others, it's spring anhydrous or spring UAN. But for many of you out there, you have an application of Nitrogen that is 100 lbs. per acre or more at a single application. Now, there are a few basics that we need to cover before we go any further.

First and foremost, I want to put into black and white that I do not want to see fall anhydrous go away. The logistics of it are too important for you all as growers and my company as a dealer. I can say with a lot of certainty that the US fertilizer market is not prepared to switch those tons to spring tons because of our delivery systems. And even if they could, it would reset prices in the market, again due to logistics. But, given all of that, I think that we need to consider moving some of those pounds to another time of year.

My rule, well to be fair it isn’t my rule, but I live by it, of no more than 10X your CEC at any one time of Nitrogen pounds is accurate, but also needs to have context. Your soils Cation Exchange Capacity gives us a place to store Nitrogen, but realize that doesn’t mean that all of your Nitrogen has a safe place to be stored right away. Your soils cation exchange sites have other cations there competing for those spots as well, and it is not a foregone conclusion that just because the rule says it should be safe, it will be safe.

And that is why even if your CEC says it can support twice the amount you are putting on at a time, it might still not be a good idea to do so. I know many of you have CEC levels in the low upper teens and low twenties. But I want you to think about potential loss this way.

When our soils are cold in the fall, Nitrogen is fairly stable, especially after the soil freezes. But from March whatever to June 20th, the growing crop in the field needs very little Nitrogen. So when you put on 150 pounds of N in March, you are basically acknowledging that you are gambling. Your bet is that for the next 110 days you are going to play weather roulette and Mother Nature won’t hit 0 or 00 more than a couple of times, because when she does, we get rain that steals a percentage of our Nitrogen. When you put 100 pounds out on April 1st you are making the same bet, but only 80 times. Now if the bet is that you will lose 5% of your Nitrogen every time we hit green, does that seem like a significant difference.

Listen, the reality of this all is that no matter what the system is, we are always betting against Mother Nature. And we know that she always wins in the long run. As my friend Tim Mundorf likes to say, “all Nitrogen management ideas are good until the Corn turns yellow.” I can assure you that I don’t want to see those yellow corn days because that is yield lost for the year. But I also know that to maintain our license to operate, we have to get better and better every year that goes by. The only thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that splitting up your Nitrogen applications will cost you more money up front than a single N application. But, when yield, and the long term balance of the environment and feeding the world are all put into perspective, splitting up Nitrogen applications is now, or will soon be everyone’s reality.

By Keith Byerly

Posted: 2/7/2019 3:56:10 PM by Kelli Reznicek | with 0 comments