Splitting Nitrogen Applications

When corn producers apply nitrogen into the soil at the beginning of the season, it’s at the maximum dose. Environmental actions such as temperature, moisture, and soil conditions cause some of it to be lost or immobilized. This means nitrogen may not be immediately available to the crop when it needs it later in the season, especially if your soil isn’t ideal.

Dr. Darin Lickfeldt is the director of technical development for Verdesian Life Sciences. He says corn needs to feast on nitrogen for a long time, so splitting it up into two applications makes more sense.

"Ideally on the higher organic matter, higher quality soils, we recommend putting about 70% of the nitrogen down pre-plant, and then about 30% of it at a V6 to V8 growth stage in corn right before that canopy’s closing right before you just can’t get back into the field," he says. "That’s when we’d like that last application to happen."

If the soil isn’t high in organic matter, he recommends splitting the nitrogen application 50% pre-plant, and 50% right before the canopy closes.

To be effective, nitrogen has to be down at the root zone where the plants can readily take it up, not on the soil surface.

"We like the Y-drop operations where we’re dribbling nitrogen close to the rows where it can be more quickly used," says Lickfeldt. "A lot of producers now are starting to knife their nitrogen in just below the surface, say, 1”-2” deep in the soil but between the rows to get that below the surface a little more protected from volatilization, and getting it close to where the roots can use it."

Learn more about splitting nitrogen applications