Many parts of the country have experienced excellent growing conditions that include warm temperatures and near optimum moisture, leading to hopeful expectations for a strong harvest. While we tend to focus on what we can see above ground, what goes on below the surface can be just as impactful. Those same warm temperatures, good moisture and excellent aeration of the soil can lead to strong mineralization of soil organic matter, leading to the release of nutrients for the crop.
As growers adopt split nitrogen application technologies, one advantage is that it allows time to delay the decisions about how much nitrogen to apply. The extra time provides them with the knowledge and information needed to determine the next steps for the crop. During this time, they can sample both the soil and tissue and test for nutrient levels then adjust in season.
This season has been unique because mineralization levels of soil organic matter appear to be robust. As a result, growers are the recipients of additional free nitrogen. It is assumed that for every percent of organic matter, up to 25 -30 pounds of nitrogen can be mineralized in an ideal year. If a grower has 3% soils that could be as much as 90+ pounds of free nitrogen and given the excellent conditions this year it is entirely possible that is the case.
For those growers who have adopted in-season split application technologies, the additional time has allowed them to measure available nitrogen and discover that outstanding mineralization has been their friend this year.
In some cases this method has even allowed them to reduce the amount of applied N and reap the benefits of free nitrogen, which is additionally beneficial to the environment. By utilizing time as a resource to gather information growers are gaining knowledge to help grow larger crops with greater nutrient efficiency and positive environmental impact.