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Late N on Corn in 2015

December 04, 2015

The popularity of applying nitrogen later in the growing season on corn has been increasing.  Research out of the US and from OMAFRA has shown that split applications of nitrogen in corn generally pays for the farmer.  When growers split their nitrogen, they are better able to adapt to any curveballs that Mother Nature may throw at them.  

Wet, saturated soils this past spring denitrified much of the nitrate N available for the crop from fertilizer applied at planting.  This N applied early was lost and therefore late in-crop applications of N were favored. This past season, growers around Niagara and Haldimand experimented with various methods of late N application on corn.  Aside from traditional side-dressing with a knifing unit pulled behind a tractor, growers tried Y-dropping their corn with liquid 28%, or High Clearance Spinner trucks.  There are pros and cons to each of these methods.  

A traditional side-dress unit is pulled behind a tractor.  It has knives that cut a slit into the soil into which liquid 28% is dribbled; closing wheels need to crumble the slot behind the knives to stop the 28% from volatilizing.  One downside to this method is, that you must make the application before corn is too tall that it may be crushed by the tractor or the side-dressing unit.  An upside to this application is that any farmer can do this themselves as long as they have a tractor to pull a rental side-dress unit.  

This past season many growers in the area experimented with having N applied via ‘Y-Drops’.  This is a special toolbar with drop tubes that attach to a high clearance sprayer.  The tubes drop into the canopy of the corn crop and dribbles liquid 28% on the ground alongside the corn stalks.  An upside to Y-Drops is that you are able to apply N to corn up to 6ft tall and there is much less tramping compared to a tractor-pulled side-dress applicator.  Some growers tried applying urea to their corn with a High Clearance Spinner truck.  This machine is on a high clearance chassis similar to a sprayer, but instead of a tank and a boom it has a fertilizer box and spinner.  The upside to this application is that you are able to apply to 6ft tall corn, and generally urea is less expensive per unit N than liquid 28%.  One downside to the Y-Drops and the High Clearance Spinner truck is that you must pay for a custom applicator to do this and demand for these machines is high.  

This past season late-applied N resulted in some growers achieving up to 20bu/ac extra yield compared to all N applied pre-plant.  Late-season N application is a trend that will likely continue to grow among growers as economic benefits are realized.  If you are growing corn in 2016, consider trying one of these three methods to apply N later in the season to see if this practice works on your farm to increase yields.   At Clark Agri Service, our growers have access to all three of these late-N application methods.  We have multiple side-dress units for rent, as well as Y-Drop services and a new High Clearance Spinner truck.  Talk to your Agronomist to see which method is the best for your farm.

This Crop Corner has been written by Melody Robinson, Sales Agronomist at Clark Agri Service.  Melody can be reached by email mrobinson@clarkagriservice.com or by phone 289-775-1188