Seems like everyone has a blog, newsletter or magazine article on nitrogen and corn yields for the 2011 crop.  Well I guess I will chime in with my .02 worth on the topic this Friday.

A pound of N is a pound of N.  (Yea, we all know that I hope by now.)  It is where, how and when you place that N that matters most.  In 2011 where, how and when made all the difference in the world.  Yet there are still fertilizer dealers and farmers who are flat out in denial.

I have been told that some calculations have already been done here locally by a few farmers that their sidedressed corn had a $200/ac advantage to their preplant corn.  I believe that is the case and think is higher in some instances.  A lot higher in some instances.  Based on the available N testing that I did this spring, testing for both Nitrate and Ammonia N, there were many instances of preplant N loss, (urea, solution and anhydrous) of 50% with some fields I tested losing 75% by the time the corn was V2 – V3.  Some of those fields didn’t have corn growing in them by the 20th of April either…………

Fields with preplant N, where the farmer either tested and believed the results or assumed a N loss based on crop color and looks by V5-V6, and then sidedressed supplemental N at between 50 and 75 lbs/ac, and reported to me a 50-70 bu/ac yield increase over doing nothing.

So 50 bu/ac @ $6/bu = $300/ac Gross minus 75 lbs N/ac @ .50/lb = $37.50/ac Cost equals $262.50 NET/ac (no labor or machine cost subtracted).

So on 100 ac that’s another $26,250 of profit…………..Sidedressed N, applied with a knife, in the ground, between the corn rows.

Will that hold true every year……….. probably not.  But if a pound of N is a pound of N and placement and timing are everything, then how much are you willing to give up for convenience?  $262/ac?  $200/ac??  $50/ac??

In that range of numbers above is a lot of the cash rent that is paid in this area……….Where, how and when could have easly paid your cash rent………plus  a great return on your time an machiney investment.

Where, how and when was everything this year……..


2 Responses to My .02 on Nitrogen in 2011

  • I agree with what you’re saying in principle, but I feel you’re not discussing the impact soil types have on this issue.

    For the last several years I’ve always operated alone with no help and therefore I put my ammonia down the previous fall. This year due to the abnormal rain fall patterns and amounts I suffered nitrogen loss. No question about it, but the worst of it was on my ‘lighter’ soils, not so much on the heavier, dark loomy ground. Of course, if I had had any idea the degree of loss I would have come back and side-dressed, but there is no way in God’s Green Earth I would have increased the resulting dry bu. corn yield by 50 bu., let alone 70!

    I feel I gave up between 25 and 30 bu/a this past year to nitrogen loss on the lighter soils and in spots maybe up to 20 bu/a on my heavier ground. But it’s hard to hold nitrogen in sugar-sand in a good year and I accept that as part of the equation.

    Side-dressing nitrogen is without question the best way to go, but around here it’s always a gamble with the weather and soil conditions and I know of hundreds of acres locally this past year that got NO nitrogen because the operators never got the conditions necessary to side-dress.


    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  • admin says:


    All we have is light soils here!!! Some of the bigger yield increases were seen on the heavier, clay soils compared to the silt loams and clay loams. But there were significant (50+bu) difference on the light soils as well. 20+ inches of rain in 14 days works havoc on these clay pan soils and the nutrients in them. Esp when the soil temp was well over 60 deg.

    I attribute some of the bigger yield increases not only to the N but to the aeration of sidedressing. When soils are sealed up and going anaerobic air works wonders!

    We are to far south to fall apply N and most pre plant goes on starting in March or early April when the grounds to wet. I have worked with and for farmers who farm 5000+ acres of corn a year who sidedress every bit of it every year. Its a matter of logistics and having a tractor(s) and people dedicated to getting it done. I also know guys who have got caught by wet conditions who never got it on as well or had to fly it on.

    Each farmer has to be comfortable with their level of management and what they can and cant get done in a timely fashion. A lot of N down here goes on early so that one can get done and go to the races or to the lake and not necessarily for whats best for the crop……….or maybe for a long term return on investment. When your paying well above the market for the better ground and then managing it marginally, why bother to pay the high dollar cash rent and leave money on the table?

    Then again why farm on such a tight margin to begin with?

    As always Frank I enjoy your comments and contributions to the blog!! Keep them coming!

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