Top ten tips to hold down nitrogen cost

Farm Forum

As fuel goes up, so do nitrogen cost. At the present time with wholesale nitrogen where it is lower, but fuel cost will determine spring price. Eighty percent of the cost of making nitrogen is in fuel mainly through the use of natural gas. Past history has shown nine years of the ten, fall fertilizer prices will be lower than spring. So waiting for price declines are not very likely.

The best way to fight high nitrogen prices is to use good nitrogen management practices that result in the most efficient use of applied nitrogen. Some of these practices are listed below.

1. Take credit for carryover soil nitrate. The two-foot soil nitrate test can accurately measure the carryover amount. This is very important this year.

2. Take credit for legumes. The recommended credit for soybeans is 40 lb./a regardless of previous soybean yield.

3. Take credit for manure applications. Sampling manure for both organic and inorganic nitrogen should be done so accurate credits can be taken. Manure with significant inorganic nitrogen content should be knifed below the soil surface or immediately incorporated to prevent volatilization losses of ammonia. Accurate spreading is also a must.

4. Take credit for nitrogen applied with phosphorus and other nitrogen containing fertilizers. Sixty pounds of phosphorus applied as DAP supplies almost 25 lbs. of nitrogen.

5. Do not apply nitrogen in fall until soil temperatures fall below 50 degrees to prevent conversion to nitrate and possible leaching from snowmelt and early spring rains. Soils across central South Dakota usually reach that temperature about October 15. Since some microbial activity still occurs at the temperature, colder soils would be better.

6. Do not apply nitrogen in fall on sandy or any course textured soil.

7. Side dress nitrogen on corn to minimize early season leaching or denitrification losses. This is especially important for sandy soil, irrigated land or areas that may pond water after heavy rains.

8. Urea applications should be incorporated within two weeks of applications to minimize volatilization losses if there is not rainfall. Winter applications of urea should be avoided since studies show significant volatilization losses can occur.

9. Set reasonable yield goals. Setting yield goals which may be reached only one or two years out of ten will result in over application of nitrogen the other eight or nine years out of ten.

10. Make sure P, K, and Zn levels are adequate for the yield goal. If these levels are too low adding more nitrogen may have little benefit.