The 2008 growing season will go down in the record books
as one of the wettest in memory in the Midwest - and growers suffered the consequences in the form of nitrogen loss and lower yields.
In a survey of agronomists from Midwestern universities funded by Agrotain International, more than 80 percent of respondents ranked the season as wet or very wet. In
a year also remembered for high fertilizer prices, weather conditions contributed to significant nitrogen deficiencies in corn and wheat:
- Three agronomists in 10 reported that at least one-half of the acres in their area lacked sufficient nitrogen.
- Three-fourths of the agronomists ranked nitrogen inefficiency on those acres as slightly severe to very severe.
- At least 90 percent of this inefficiency could be attributed to weather conditions, three-fourths of the agronomists agreed.
- Fifty-three percent of the agronomists attributed the nitrogen loss to denitrification, while another 40 percent cite soil leaching.
In one notable survey, an agronomist deemed that as much as 85 percent of the nitrogen loss in their area was due to volatilization. This would mean most of the nitrogen loss occurred before the fertilizer had even penetrated the soil.
"These numbers reveal that Midwest growers are losing a staggering percentage of the nitrogen they apply before it can benefit their crops," said John Hassell, research and
agronomic development manager for Agrotain International. "Even growers who apply
the recommended rates of nitrogen are seeing reduced yields. Those who compensate by increasing nitrogen rates even higher have to deal with the added cost. Unfortunately, most growers don't know there is a better approach."
The most cost-effective solution to the problem is to use a nitrogen stabilizer, which can significantly reduce nitrogen losses from urea and UAN (liquid fertilizer) applications.
Many agronomists surveyed said improved efficiency and yields make nitrogen stabilizers a cost-effective part of managing nitrogen fertilizer:
"I recommend the use of a nitrogen stabilizer," stated one Iowa agronomist.
"Higher commodity prices make them more cost-effective," another agronomist in the
Hassell suggests the most effective nitrogen stabilizer for urea or UAN is a urease inhibitor.
"The agronomist survey confirms what we have seen over and over on the farm," Hassell said. "Nitrogen inefficiency is a yield robber - and impacts grower profitability.
Using a urease inhibitor is an excellent way to control input costs and make sure every plant maximizes the nitrogen it receives. Stabilized nitrogen can help Midwest growers hold the line on rising nitrogen costs and protect the yield potential of their crops, while also reducing
nitrogen's impact on the environment."
Agrotain, Agrotain Plus and SuperU brands were developed for corn, wheat and other major nitrogen-consuming crops. Growers are urged to ask their retailers about fine-tuning their nitrogen applications to become more efficient with Agrotain in the 2009 season.
The survey included agronomists from Iowa State University, University of Illinois,
University of Kentucky, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, Ohio State University
and Purdue University.