Getting The Most Out Of Nitrogen

No-tillers can improve their utilization of ‘N’ by measuring variability in their fields and taking advantage of biotech corn.

There’s more pressure than ever today for no-tillers to increase corn yields, and the challenge of high fertilizer prices and environmental regulations aren’t going away either.

But no-tillers willing to do some field research and use tools available to them can boost the efficiency of their nitrogen use, says Fred Below, a University of Illinois plant physiologist.

Below says no-tillers can combine current state-of-the-art technologies and biotechnologies associated with nitrogen applications, and use of nitrogen by corn plants.

At the 2010 National No-Tillage Conference held in Des Moines, Iowa, Below shared information gleaned from onfarm and research station trials that examined the nitrogen requirement of corn, the nitrogen source, application timing, field spatial variability and genetic variations that impact nitrogen use.

Knowing how modern corn hybrids perform and how that performance varies in the field “gives you the opportunity to manage it with variable-rate technology,” he says.

Gather The Data.

A first step no-tillers should consider for improving utilization of nitrogen is to get a handle on what’s currently happening with nitrogen in their fields, Below says.

Below discussed how technology was used in a series of onfarm and response trials conducted over the last 5 years to find out how hybrid corn responds to nitrogen, and how the response varies both within and between fields.

Seventy-eight fields in six states were analyzed in geographic clusters, with five to six fields in each cluster having different soil types and management practices but similar weather patterns. The researchers used the individual…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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