Nitrogen (N) is essential to plant growth and grain fill, making it critical for growers to monitor soil N levels at key points during the growing season. Wet conditions in May and June have raised concerns that rescue applications of N may be needed as this essential nutrient can easily be lost from the soil by leaching or denitrification with excess rainfall.
 
Growers should be evaluating how much N remains in the soil and if it will be enough to meet crop needs. A quick response to N-deficiency stress is often required to minimize yield loss.
 
Soil tests are one way to gauge nitrogen levels prior to an in-season application. Optical sensors can also be mounted on fertilizer application equipment, enabling on-the-go N sensing, rate calculation and application all at once. Aerial imagery and chlorophyll meters are also good tools to evaluate crop N needs. Several research studies show that rescue N applications are effective at recovering yield — as late as three weeks after pollination.
 
If N is found to be lacking in the plants and soil, growers have several decisions to make, including:

  • the type of N to apply
  • application method
  • timing
  • volume of N needed
  • need for a nitrification inhibitor

Pioneer agronomists estimate that farmers in the U.S. Corn Belt currently lose $50 to $60 per acre as a result of nitrogen management inefficiencies—with much greater loses occurring in extreme climatic years. DuPont Pioneer will soon offer a Nitrogen Management Service in targeted corn production geographies. This advanced management solution will significantly narrow the nitrogen profit loss gap by giving farmers a new ability to plan, monitor and adapt nitrogen management practices to maximize profitability and improve environmental quality in the face of climatic uncertainty.