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Sponsored: What Is the Right Rate for Base Plus Nitrogen Application?

The Base Plus approach to nitrogen application, or applying a base rate of nitrogen and supplementing in season as the crop needs it, is very sound in these tight economic times when wasteful spending of input dollars can cost growers dearly. Many growers have begun to adopt this approach in order to maximize NUE while minimizing nitrate losses into ground water. As a result there are more questions around the execution of this strategy.  What is the right rate, form and method of application for a base plus nitrogen program?

There isn’t one right answer to this question.  Many factors determine how much nitrogen you should apply in your first pass:

What is your cropping rotation?  Corn-after-corn will require more N up front in order to pay the carbon penalty and prevent young plants from N shortages during the critical ear formation stage between V5-V12. 

What is your risk aversion profile?  This depends on soil type and drainage. For example, if you farm a lakebed clay in Ohio that is more poorly drained and prone to denitrification, then you need to have plenty of safety built into your early application rate as you are more likely to face N loss.

How much organic matter is in the soil? If you have high organic matter and well drained black prairie soil, you should be less concerned with heavy denitrification and comfortable that you can mineralize more N when the weather warms.  In addition the form will have much to do with what rate to apply.  Will you use a stabilized anhydrous early pre-plant or un-stabilized broadcast Urea?  The urea has much more opportunity for loss early on so the base plus rate will be higher in that case.

The bottom line is that there are many effective approaches to the base-plus nitrogen rate decision.  Your farm will likely be very different from your neighbor’s. Because of that, the rate decision will depend on your crop rotation and soil type as well as cultural factors such as the use of a stabilizer and the form of N you plan to use. 

The key to this strategy is applying the right amount in a form that ensures the young corn plant is never starved for N prior to supplemental applications.  That will look different for every grower. Choose what best fits your operation. The important thing to remember is that you are attempting to increase efficiency by gaining knowledge through time.  By doing so you can hone your nitrogen rates while increasing yield and efficiency.

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