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Sponsored: The "Art" of Nitrogen Management

It has been said that every nitrogen decision can be 100% correct or 100% incorrect depending on what happens in the environment following the decision.  Understanding the art of nitrogen can help growers evaluate what new technology can best drive their on-farm profitability moving forward.

Each day new tools are arriving on the market that can help growers with their nitrogen management program. For growers who are exposed to all of these new options, it can be both enlightening and frustrating. So many options exist that it can be difficult to know where to start. So how can you sort through the myriad choices to make the best decision for your farm?

Start by asking yourself what you want to accomplish both this year and in the future in relation to nitrogen management and yield.  Although that is a somewhat simple question, there could be several answers.  Are you trying to achieve the highest NUE possible or are you simply reaching for maximum yields? Do you want to minimize labor or are you willing to trade time and labor for increased yields and efficiency? 

After you decide what your goal is regarding nitrogen management, the next step is to research the best path to achieve that goal.  Is it the implementation of a crop model? Is it utilizing a measuring tool in conjunction with a new application technology?  Whatever path you choose, it is imperative that you understand the “art” of nitrogen basics in addition to the science. Nitrogen is a slippery pig that is a challenge to grasp. Because we deal in biological systems, what worked one year may not produce the exact same results the next year. This creates confusion for growers as to whether the new technology failed or something changed. 

Nitrogen is an enigma that requires a solid understanding of the basics behind the nutrient.  Understanding the art of nitrogen can help growers as they evaluate what worked and why it worked.  Take some time and do basic research on the nitrification process, denitrification, leaching and behavior of the different forms of nitrogen in the soil.  As you gain a deeper understanding of the art, you’ll be able to pair it with the science in order to understand the outcomes as you try new technology. 

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