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Sponsored: The Tale of Two Environments

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

You probably recognize the words of Charles Dicken’s famous opening line, but this phrase accurately and appropriately describes the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons, and is sure to describe consecutive seasons to come.

2015, in most areas, was “the worst of times,” bringing large amount of rainfall that moved nitrogen away from the root zone, leaving little for the plant.

2016, on the other hand, was “the best of times,” with adequate levels of moisture and substantial but not excessive heat.

How do we manage nitrogen in these unpredictable environmental conditions? The answer is a flexible plan that accommodates the crop both in the best growing conditions and the worst.

The Base Plus approach is a three step routine that leaves some nitrogen available for later in the season, so you can make the judgment call about whether or not to apply more depending on Mother Nature and your crop’s needs.

  1. Build a foundation of nitrogen: Start your crop off strong by applying a base rate of nitrogen. This could be through fall or spring anhydrous application, weed & feed, or with the planter.
  2. Test soil in season: Applying nitrogen mid season is a mystery unless you know how much nitrates are left in your soil and available to the crop. Pull soil samples and take them to a lab or test them in field. Either way, you’ll have a much better idea of how much to apply to give your crop what it needs.
  3. Apply N when and where the corn needs it (link to Y-DROP): Now that you know the rate of N your crop needs, evaluate whether or not to apply. In years like 2015 with large amounts of N loss, you’ll want to apply more N at the base of the plant, where the plant takes up most of its nitrogen. In years with ideal growing conditions like 2016, save on input costs by utilizing the free N in the soil given by Mother Nature.

This approach is a more efficient way to manage nitrogen, because it takes the crop’s needs into consideration. When you apply all of your N up front in the spring or the fall, you risk the chances of it getting lost through leaching, heat or moisture. This growing season, rethink your N management and consider adapting the Base Plus approach.

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