Keep Nitrogen Available To Nourish Plants

Innova Row StarterJust applying nitrogen doesn’t guarantee it will still be there in the most usable form when the crop needs it. Nitrogen is one of the leading yield-limiting factors for the crop.  Researchers now recommend applying only the amount of nitrogen the plant requires to fulfill its yield potential and inhibiting the loss of that nitrogen by using a nitrogen stabilizer.  Loss of nitrogen means wasted investments and loss of profit potential.

There are steps that can be taken throughout the year to minimize nitrogen loss. When to implement these will depend upon what form of nitrogen being applied, when it is applied, and the environment in which it is applied.

It’s important to understand how nitrogen stabilization not only supports healthy plant growth but also fosters environmental stewardship. Nitrogen stabilizers slow the conversion of ammonium-N to the nitrate form, providing a better opportunity for the plant to uptake the nutrient from the soil. As a result, research shows that fewer nitrates are lost into the groundwater or surface water through field drainage.

Since applied nitrogen can be a grower’s largest input cost, it’s important to for them to know what happens to the various forms of nitrogen in the root zone.  Depending on the soil type, fertilizer is susceptible to losing more than 50% of its nitrogen through various forms of loss – volatility, leaching, nitrification and denitrification.

Volatility occurs when nitrogen is in the organic form of urea, most commonly from urea fertilizers or animal manure. When this happens the nitrogen is changed to ammonia gas (NH3) and lost into the atmosphere. It is most likely to take place when soils are warm and moist and the source of urea is near the surface.

Leaching is the loss of nitrates from the soil below the plant’s root zone due to rain and irrigation. Since soil and organic matter also are negatively charged, the nitrates are repelled and can be easily washed away.    Leaching is most common in sandy soils.

Denitrification refers to the loss of nitrogen when soil microbes convert nitrates to gaseous forms.  The nitrogen diffuses out of the soil and escapes into the atmosphere. Denitrification affects only nitrates, not ammonium.

Nitrification is greatly influenced when soil temperatures warm above 50°F.   Nitrification will begin to take place and that ammonium will start to be converted by microbes to the more mobile nitrate form. When urea or urea-containing fertilizers are applied in the spring, they are usually converted to nitrate more rapidly than ammonium applied in either the fall or spring

There are steps that can be taken throughout the year to minimize nitrogen loss. When to implement these will depend upon what form of nitrogen being applied, application timing, and the environment in which it is applied.

Protecting nitrogen protects yields and improves your fertilizer investment. For options on protecting your nitrogen investment, contact myself or any Novus Ag Associate Partner.

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