Why Managing Nitrogen Is Critical When No-Tilling

The tools for utilizing nitrogen more effectively are in place. Now it’s time to use them.

“As we deal with tougher economic times, we’re faced with managing nitrogen better than ever before,” maintains Allen Sutton of Agrotain International in Corydon, Ky.

While some experts think nitrogen prices could remain high for several years, there are a number of management practices that you can use to make your no-till nitrogen investment work even harder. In fact, you may be able to use already proven nitrogen management practices and tools to increase your no-till nitrogen efficiencies by as much as 70 percent while trimming losses and enhancing the plant uptake of nitrogen.

At the same time, Sutton says you must be realistic when planning your nitrogen program and setting yield goals. He recommends making fertilization planning decisions based on the particular nitrogen source and the specific time when it will be applied.

“From the moment we apply nitrogen, we’re faced with a multitude of biological activity in no-till,” he says. “Nitrogen management involves reducing losses from volatilization, leaching and denitrification, as well as avoiding biological immobilization under no-till conditions.”

Great Escape Artist

Nitrogen is the great escape artist, maintains Sutton. One way it can escape is through volatilization of anhydrous ammonia and surface-applied urea or urea-containing materials. In fact, a nitrogen solution can be as volatile as dry urea where losses often exceed 30 percent in many years and normally begin within hours after application.

When urea is surface applied, it rapidly hydrolyzes, resulting in a breakdown of chemical bonds and becomes ammonium carbonate, which leads to a…

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