MU agronomist: Plant now, add nitrogen later

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

The wettest first quarter of the year since 2008 has delayed nitrogen fertilizer applications and corn planting.

When the rain faucet shuts off, plant first and apply nitrogen later, advises Peter Scharf, University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist and professor in plant sciences at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

“Almost all of the time, the right decision is to plant,” he says. “Delaying planting is more likely to hurt yields than delaying nitrogen application. Research shows that delayed nitrogen application won’t hurt yield. In wet years, delayed nitrogen application will actually help yields.”

Scharf cites research from 2008-2010, years with wet springs like the one we are now experiencing. Over those three years, corn receiving nitrogen fertilizer when it was knee-high out-yielded corn receiving all nitrogen fertilizer at planting by an average of 60 bushels per acre each year. “This is because the nitrogen applied at planting was lost due to wet weather and was not there when the crop needed it in June and July.”

Preliminary data from the Missouri Climate Center at MU indicates a statewide average monthly rainfall of 6.2 inches in April, making it the fourth consecutive month with above-normal precipitation. Total statewide precipitation for the first quarter of 2013 was 16.5 inches, more than 5 inches above normal for the period and the seventh-wettest January through April on record. Some areas of northeastern Missouri had as much as 9.2 inches of rain over the last four-week period, pushing corn planting back to 27 days behind last year and 18 days behind normal, according to the May 6 USDA crop progress report.

Delayed application may mean changing machinery. Some producers may have planned to use nitrogen-application equipment before planting that won’t work in a standing crop. Scharf encourages producers to be flexible about how they get their nitrogen applied. He notes that a number of fertilizer dealers have recently purchased or leased high-clearance applicators, and many have side-dress units available. “This creates options in addition to equipment that the producer actually owns.”

Due to drought, much of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to corn last year was not used. Some producers may have hoped to use this nitrogen with another corn crop planted this year. This possibility looked reasonable all through the fall of 2012, but is questionable now. A small number of deep soil samples Scharf and others took this spring have revealed less nitrogen than expected.

“We found almost zero nitrate in the top foot, but about 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre as nitrate in the second foot and another 20 in the third foot,” Scharf said. “In short, the nitrate has moved down, and it seems likely that a good bit has moved below 3 feet deep. I wouldn’t take a credit for last year’s nitrogen unless it was backed up by a deep soil test.”

Soil tests to measure residual nitrogen are available through the MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory, through local extension centers or through commercial vendors.

For information on how to interpret soil test results, MU Extension guide G9177, “Preplant Nitrogen Test for Adjusting Corn Nitrogen Recommendations,” is available for free download at

Nitrogen application also is discussed in “Best Management Practices for Nitrogen Fertilizer in Missouri” (IPM1027), available at

Information also is available from Scharf at Precipitation maps are available at the link for “N Watch 2013,” a tracking tool begun in 2009 to help producers make assessments about nitrogen loss in certain regions of the state.

Prev 1 2 Next All

Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Grain Storage Systems

Behlen Grain Storage Systems offers large capacity bins with diameters from 16’ to 157’ and capacities exceeding 1,500,000 bushels. All ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form