Nitrogen: Shift Your Thinking and Your Timing

Margins are tight. In some areas, fertilizer prices have eased a bit, but certainly not enough to offset the low corn price. With that in mind, input efficiency is more important than ever. As we look for ways to produce more corn with less, nitrogen planning is critical. Of all the factors that contribute to production costs and yield, nitrogen has one of the largest impacts. But, cutting back on nitrogen to save money isn’t the right answer. Rather, making small improvements in nitrogen utilization can make big differences to your bottom line and yield.

New nitrogen management tools from 360 Yield Center are making split-nitrogen application more practical and easier to implement than ever before. Now, you can measure and supply the right amount of N when the plant is ready to use it instead of putting it out early when it is vulnerable to loss.

Instead of a one-and-done application, you can now take what we call a base-plus approach to nitrogen.

  • Apply a base rate of N in fall or spring for a strong foundation.
    Split-nitrogen application isn’t about starving the crop early. You should apply a base rate of N in the fall or spring to ensure your corn gets off to a great start, but save some of the N supply. The goal is to make sure we have enough base nitrogen to get to around the V14 growth stage of corn, and then refuel based on what the environment has given you. Your corn uses almost 75% of its overall N needs after V101 so if you run out of N after pollination, growth will shut down, ears will be shorter and grain fill will suffer. We never want our corn to have a bad day, as this not only causes yield loss, but more importantly bottom line loss.
  • Test soil in-season so you know how much N is left.
    Understanding in-season N availability can be a real guessing game. But, now you can know exactly how much nitrate N is present through real-time measurement. 360 SOILSCAN tests N availability – and soil pH – in the field with the accuracy of a soil lab. With real-time information, you can build a N recommendation based on yield goal, corn growth stage and organic matter so you know exactly how much N to apply just when it is needed in-season. That way, you don’t over apply and waste inputs, and you’re not falling short and leaving yield potential in the field.
  • Come back between V6 and tassel to apply more N when corn needs it most.
    Applying N in-season can be scary – what if you miss your window? Luckily, the sidedress window is now so wide that you can split-apply N with more confidence. 360 Y-DROP® provides flexibility and control for timing of midseason N application anywhere from V6 to tassel – a window of more than 30 days. It places liquid N at the base of the stalk, where even modest dew pushes N to the root mass for rapid uptake. This allows you to refuel the crop with precision to get it to the finish line and reach its yield potential.

A Base-plus Approach Pays
Field trials show it pays to use the base-plus approach. One side-by-side trial in 2015 showed the later the N application, the higher the yield. Compared with a one-and-done spring application of 200 lb., a split-N application of 150 lb. in spring and 50 lb. of N at V12 with 360 Y-DROP boosted yield by 29 bu/A. That’s a gain of $104 per acre.

By repositioning nitrogen when and where it’s needed, you can make more of your N investment and boost yield potential. Our goal is to get more bushels of corn out of every lb. of N and this approach enables that. Learn more about the ROI of split-N application and see how farmers saw real results in 2015 at