Boots in the Field: Banding Vs. Broadcast Nitrogen Efficiency

Tanks of anhydrous ammonia ( Margy Eckelkamp )

As planting kicks off in parts of the U.S., farmers are working hard to make sure their meeting their corn’s nitrogen needs throughout the year. There are so many ways you can apply nitrogen—manure, broadcasting, banding, etc.—which one provides the most bang for your buck?

In farmer meetings, Ken Ferrie and others were discussing an unintentional field trial that showcased major differences between broadcasting dry urea versus banding anhydrous ammonia. Here’s the scenario Ferrie examined:

This field applied spring anhydrous, 170 pounds, but a portion of the field was too wet to get the applicator across. So, they decided to leave it and come back with a broadcast application of 138 pounds of dry urea. The whole field was worked that same day—both the urea and the anhydrous sections. This field also had about 57 pounds of N applied as ammonium sulfate and DAP. The anhydrous part of the field then had a total of 227 pounds of N spring applied while the urea portion had 195 pounds applied to it. By June the urea portion of the field was starting to show N deficiencies. A Y drop application was made to this corner [of the field] around June 3. The ammonia part of the field didn’t show the same deficiencies.

The big question was: why did 195 pounds of surface-applied N on soybean stubble, worked in, show a deficiency when the spring anhydrous didn’t?

“You pick up efficiencies when you band a nutrient,” Ferrie explains. “When we band N, we keep it away from the bulk of the microbes, which means we have less immobilization in the field.”

Because the broadcasted portion interacted with more microbes, more is it was immobilized in the spring. The 4R concept that came into play for this deficiency was “right product.”

Listen here for more information from Ferrie about how other 4R components come into play and what other tips you need to know throughout the season about urea versus anhydrous.