Home » Nitrogen

Category Archives: Nitrogen

ABOUT ME

osunpk

osunpk

Since 2008 I have served as the Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist for Oklahoma State University. I work in Wheat, Corn, Sorghum, Cotton, Soybean, Canola, Sweet Sorghum, Sesame, Pasture/Hay. My work focuses on providing information and tools to producers that will lead to improved nutrient management practices and increased profitability of Oklahoma production agriculture

View Full Profile →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,149 other followers

Rain makes grain, but also washes Nitrogen away.

Precipitation in the southern Great Plains is never something you take for granted. As I write this blog I am just wondering when it will be dry enough for long enough to finishing sowing my wheat, but I also remember just how dry it was last winter. The last three months, Aug-Oct rank as one of wettest in the states recorded history. Below are the 30, 60, and 90 day rain fall totals (as of 10.26.18) from Mesonet. By the 60 day map most the wheat belt is showing double digits and the 90 day maps shows a lot of our graze out wheat regions in the 20+ inch realm.

30 Day rainfall totals retrieved from Mesonet on 10.26.18.  Putting recording window from Sept 26-Oct 26. http://www.mesonet.org/index.php/weather/category/rainfall

60 Day rainfall totals retrieved from Mesonet on 10.26.18.  Putting recording window from Aug 27 – Oct 2 http://www.mesonet.org/index.php/weather/category/rainfall

90 Day rainfall totals retrieved from Mesonet on 10.26.18. Putting recording window from July 28-Oct 26 http://www.mesonet.org/index.php/weather/category/rainfall

I bring up graze-out wheat for a reason, to get as much forage as possible it is planted as early as possible. I know of fields that were seeded in July and early August. And to produce this great quality forage, nitrogen fertilizer is applied pre-plant. It just so happens that this July more fertilizer was sold than any other month since I have been in Extension. In July producers bought nearly 1/3 of totoal tons of fertilizer what is typically sold in a single year. While a portion of this may have been pre-purchased for later delivery, I know a lot of it made it to the field. To see why this matters, lets take a look at the nitrogen cycle.

 

The nitrogen cycle is made up of a central component (Organic Matter), three N sinks (Microbial/Plant, Atmosphere, Nitrate {NO3}), four loss pathway (Ammonia Volatilization, Leaching, Plant Loss, Denitrification), and five additions (N2 Fixation, Fertilization, Lightning/Rainfall, Industrial Fixation, Plant/Animal Residues). We are going to spend the next bit talking about what is happening in the bottom right corner and left hand side.

When we put anhydrous ammonia (NH3) in the soil it pulls a hydrogen (H) from water and turns in to ammonium (NH4). Urea goes through a similar process but has to first be converted to NH3 by the enzyme urease.  Ammonium is important because it is a positively charged ion (cation) which will be fixed on the cation exchange sites. This means is it not going to move around in soil, but is readily available for plant uptake. However when NH4 is in a soil with temperatures above 50 degrees and in the presence of oxygen the two bacteria nitrosomonas and nitrobacter convert it to NO3. Given warm soils and our good soil moisture levels it very likely that any N applied in July or August would have converted 50% or more of its NH4 into the NO3 form by this point.

Nitrification portion of the Nitrogen Cycle. Complete Nitrogen Cycle. http://psssoil4234.okstate.edu/lecture

Nitrate is a negatively charged ion (anion) which is repelled from the negatively charged soil. This is beneficial for plants as when they take up water, NO3 is taken up though mass flow. The downside is that since NO3 is in the soil solution, where ever the solution goes so does the NO3, that is called leaching. So in well drained soils the recent rains will have caused a fair amount of leaching.  For some areas the NO3 that is leached below the root zone and could potentially be drawn back up as the soils dry. But there are going to more scenarios in which the N is gone, or at least gone elsewhere. In a sloping field the soil water will hit a limiting layer or clay increase layer and move down slope. I have already seen many wheat fields that are showing yellowing on side slopes.

Unfortunately leaching isn’t the only way we are losing N during this wet cycle. Denitrification occurs when the soil is saturated and oxygen (O) levels are depleted.  In anaerobic conditions, microbes strip O from NO3 reducing it gaseous forms. Typically it takes about one week of standing water to start seeing high levels of denitrification.

Nitrate loss pathways of the Nitrogen Cycle.
Complete Nitrogen Cycle. http://psssoil4234.okstate.edu/lecture

What does this all mean? Conservative guess is that for July or early August applied N we could be looking at losses of 50% or more.  This is a rough guesstimate of course, a fields soil texture, slope, soil type, tillage etc will all impact the loss amount.  As the date of application moves closer to Oct there will have been less nitrification and less total rainfall. What I can say with 100% certainty is that if N fertilizer was applied any time from July through early September, N has been lost.

So whats my N manage recommendations? First, foremost, and always This is the perfect scenario where N-Rich Strips will pay off! (Here’s a blog on N-Rich Strips https://osunpk.com/2013/09/19/nitrogen-rich-strips/). The N-rich Strip will allow you to detect N stress early, which for grazers is important. Close attention needs to be paid on fields with wheat being grown for grazing, N deficiencies will reduce forage production and gain. If the N-Rich strip shows up or there are signs of N deficiencies (yellowing of older leaves from the tip toward the collar) its time to be looking at applying N. For grain only fields we have some time. It is important though that as we get closer to spring and hollow stem we are taking care of the crops N needs. Here is a link to a blog on reading the N-Rich Strips to get a N rate rec https://osunpk.com/2014/02/24/sensing-the-n-rich-strip-and-using-the-sbnrc/ and here is a link to one of my latest blogs on Timing of Nitrogen Application for Wheat https://osunpk.com/2018/10/01/how-long-can-wheat-wait-for-nitrogen/.

For more information please contact me at b.arnall@okstate.edu

 

Below is a Sunup TV video on the subject of Nitrogen Losses with the recent rains.

 

 

 

How long can wheat wait for Nitrogen?

Joao Bigatao Souza, PhD. Student Precision Nutrient Management
Brain Arnall Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist.

The N-rich strip method allows wheat producers a greater window of decision making regarding the application of nitrogen (N) fertilizers. Besides having greater accuracy in N rates than standard methods (based on the SBNRC – OSU) also helps to reduce costs in the production system and to preserve the environment avoiding over N applications.

With the experiments performed in the last two crop seasons (2016/18 and 2017/18), we can now be even more accurate with regard to the best application time to increase the N use efficiency by the crop. The objective of our study was to determine the impact of prolonged nitrogen deficiency on winter wheat grain yield and protein. Eight studies were conducted with 11 N application timings in no-till dryland conditions. A pre-plant treatment of 90 lbs ac-1 of N was broadcast applied as ammonium nitrate (AN). We used AN as our source because we wanted to measure the crops ability to recover and eliminate the impact of source efficiencies. When visual symptom differentiation (VSD) was documented between the pre-plant and the non-fertilized check, i.e the N-Rich Strip showed up, top-dress applications were performed every seven growth days (GDD> 0) (https://www.mesonet.org/index.php) until 63 growth days after VSD at all sites. The only N the treatments received where applied according to treatment structure. No preplant N was applied other than trt 1, and all locations had residual N under 15 lbs 0-6” sample.

The first visual response to fertilizer N ranged from November 11 to February 5 (Table 1). The soil can have residual N from the previous season which can supply the subsequent crop in the beginning of the development what makes the wheat not demonstrate any sign of stress in the early season. For example LCB2017 a and b which were located 100 yards apart but under a different point in the crop rotation (LCBa was wheat after wheat and LCBb wheat after canola) had a 30 day difference in date of first N response. This range in first and last dates allowed us to evaluate N application over a wide range of dates and determine whether the first sign of stress is actually the best indicator of top dress application timing.

Table 1 shows the planting date, date of first visual difference (0DAVD) and each of the application dates for all locations. Different colors represent individual months. Hollow stem occurred approximately Feb 20 in the 2017 crop and March 10th in the 18 crop.

 

Image of the 2016-17 Perkins location. Image collected March 21 2017.

As shown in the Tables 2 and 3 below only three of the 78 comparisons made back to the pre-plant application were significantly less in terms of grain yield. All three of these comparisons where from when N application was delayed until late March or April. When the delayed applications were compared to 0DAVD yields only two of the 68 comparisons showed a significant decrease on yield. One was the pre-plant application for LCB2017a while the other were the 63DAVD application for LCB2017b. In most locations applications made in March yields were at the highest point, however when delayed till April yield trends on the downward trend. The 2017 crop reached hollow stem (Feekes 6) around Feb 20th while the 2018 crop reached hollow stem around March 10th.

Grain protein concentration was decreased only once when compared to both the pre-plant and 0DAVD treatments. This one timing, LCB2018b 64DAVD, was the only application made in May. During this time the crop was in the early stages of grain-fill. In all locations delaying N application until February/March increased grain protein content above the check, and in most cases above the 0DAVD trt.

Tables 2-3 shows the winter wheat grain yield and protein concentration, respectively, of all treatments. The colors of the cells represent statistical difference from the Pre-plant treatment. Treatments with cells shaded yellow are equal to the pre-plant, Green is statistically greater than while red is statistically less than the pre-plant treatment.

 

2016-2017 Delayed nitrogen winter wheat grain yield and protein results. For the locations of Perkins and N40 the Dec-1 application has a higher yield due to a 2x application of N to equal 180 lbs.

 

2017-2018 Delayed nitrogen winter wheat grain yield and protein results. The Perkins location in 18 was the only location in the study which did not have a statistically significant response to added N.

All the data was combined and plotted by cumulative GDD’s>0 from planting (GDDFP) across all locations to determine a general “best” timing. Using the pre-plant application yield as a base there was no yield loss if the applications was made prior to the 143 GDDFP. When the results were normalized by 0DAVD N there was no yield loss if the applications were made prior to 130 GDDFP. The quadratic model created provides the opportunity to identify the point of highest grain yield, which was approximately 94 GDDFP. In terms of the relationship between the application of N based on GDDFP and % of protein content on the grain, a linear response of N delay application observed for grain protein concentration. Our results suggest that the later the application, the higher the protein % in the grains.

Growing degree days > 0 from planting and equivalent calendar days for all experimental sites (Lake Carl Blackwell, Perkins, Lahoma, Stillwater) utilized in the study evaluating the impact nitrogen fertilizer timing on winter wheat, conducted in north central Oklahoma over the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 winter wheat growing seasons.

We have concurrent work looking at similar approaches with other sources of N such as Urea and UAN. While all of  these studies are being continued the past two years of work have presented some easy take homes.

First: Timing of N application does matter, but yellow wheat does not necessarily mean yield loss.
Second: Two years in a row ALL Nitrogen could be delayed until hollow stem without yield Loss, in fact yields of trts with N applied at this time typically better than that of the pre-plant.
Third: Protein content increased as N applications was delayed.
Fourth: The conclusions of this and other studies support that N-Rich Strip concept does not increase risk of lost yield.
Fifth: Applying the majority of the N at or just after hollow stem maximized grain yield and protein with a single shot.
Sixth and Final: Be more concerned about applying N in an environment conducive to increased utilization and less about applying at the first sign of N stress. Take a look at the wheat N uptake curve by K-State.The crop really doesnt get going in terms of N-uptake until jointing i.e. hollow Stem.

Wheat N-uptake. Figure adapted from Lollato et al.

Questions for comments fill free to contact me via email at b.arnall@okstate.edu

The challenge of collecting a representative soil sample

Guest Author, Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist Kansas State University

At first glance, soil sampling would seem to be a relatively easy task. However, when you consider the variability that likely exists within a field because of inherent soil formation factors and past production practices, the collection of a representative soil sample becomes more of a challenge.

Before heading to the field to take the sample, be sure to have your objective clearly in mind. For instance, if all you want to learn is the average fertility level of a field to make a uniform maintenance application of P or K, then the sampling approach would be different than sampling for pH when establishing a new alfalfa seeding or sampling to develop a variable rate P application map.

In some cases, sampling procedures are predetermined and simply must be followed. For example, soil tests may be required for compliance with a nutrient management plan or environmental regulations associated with confined animal feeding operations. Sampling procedures for regulatory compliance are set by the regulatory agency and their sampling instructions must be followed exactly. Likewise, when collecting grid samples to use with a spatial statistics package for drawing nutrient maps, sampling procedures specific to that program should be followed.

 

Figure 1. The level of accuracy of the results of a soil test will depend, in part, on how many subsamples were taken to create the composite sample. In general, a composite sample should consist of 15 or more subsamples. For better accuracy, 20-30 cores, or subsamples, should be taken and combined into a representative sample. F

Regardless of the sampling objectives or requirements, some sampling practices should be followed:

  • A soil sample should be a composite of many cores to minimize the effects of soil variability. Take a minimum of 12 to 15 cores from a relatively small area (two to four acres). Taking 20-30 cores will provide results that are more accurate. Take a greater number of cores on larger fields than smaller fields, but not necessarily in direct proportion to the greater acreage. A single core is not an acceptable sample.
  • Use a consistent sampling depth for all cores because pH, organic matter, and nutrient levels often change with depth. Match sampling depth to sampling objectives. K-State recommendations call for a sampling depth of two feet for the mobile nutrients – nitrogen, sulfur, and chloride. A six-inch depth is suggested for routine tests of pH, organic matter, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and zinc (Zn) (Figure 2).
  • When sampling a specific area, a zigzag pattern across the field is better than following planting/tillage pattern to minimize any past non-uniform fertilizer application/tillage effects. With a GPS system available, recording of core locations is possible. This allows future samples to be taken from the same locations in the field.
  • When sampling grid points for making variable rate nutrient application maps, collecting cores in a 5-10 foot radius around the center point of the grid is preferred for many spatial statistical software packages.
  • Avoid unusual spots obvious by plant growth and/or visual soil color/texture differences. If information on these unusual areas is desired, collect a separate composite sample from these spots.
  • If banded fertilizer has been used on the previous crop (such as strip tillage), then it is suggested that the number of cores taken should be increased to minimize the effect of an individual core on the composite sample results, and to obtain a better estimate of the average fertility for the field.
  • For permanent sod or long-term no-till fields where nitrogen fertilizer has been broadcast on the surface, a three- or four-inch sampling depth would be advisable to monitor surface soil pH

 

 

Figure 2. Consistency is sampling depth is particularly important for immobile nutrients like P. Stratification of nutrients and pH can be accentuated under reduced tillage.

Soil test results for organic matter, pH, and non-mobile nutrients (P, K, and Zn) change relatively slowly over time, making it possible to monitor changes if soil samples are collected from the same field following the same sampling procedures. However, there can be some seasonal variability and previous crop effects. Therefore, soil samples should be collected at the same time of year and after the same crop.

Soil test results for organic matter, pH, and non-mobile nutrients (P, K, and Zn) change relatively slowly over time, making it possible to monitor changes if soil samples are collected from the same field following the same sampling procedures. However, there can be some seasonal variability and previous crop effects. Therefore, soil samples should be collected at the same time of year and after the same crop.

Soil testing should be the first step for a good nutrient management program, but it all starts with the proper sample collection procedure. After harvest in the fall is good time for soil sampling for most limiting nutrients in Kansas.

For instructions on submitting soil samples to the K-State Soil Testing Lab, please see the accompanying article “Fall soil sampling: Sample collection and submission to K-State Soil Testing Lab” found in this eUpdate issue.

For any questions Contact.
Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist
ruizdiaz@ksu.edu

 

Re-Post: Sensing the N-Rich Strip and Using the SBNRC

This the recent rains across the dry wheat belt the N-Rich Strips are going to start showing up. Because I am re-posting ans older blog that walks users through the sensing process and inputting data in to SBNRC. But since post we have also release a iOS version of the Online Calculator. iOS N-Rate Calc

Original Post:
With the significant swing in temperature over the last few weeks many are chomping at the bit to get outside.  The wheat is starting to respond to the good weather and N-Rich Strips are showing up around the state.  Over the past week I have had several calls concerning the impact of the cold weather on the N-Rich Strips.  Many of the fields either are still small due to limited days of warm weather and growth or may have a good deal of damage to the foliage.  If the field of concern has only a little or no damage and the strip is visible, the time to go is NOW, but if you cannot see the strip and your field has tissue damage or is small, similar to the first two images, then you will need to wait a week or two for sensor based recommendations.  Another situation fits with the third image, the field has freeze damage but the N-Rich Strip is also visible.   In this case the predicted yield level would be reduced do to the dead tissue making the N rate recommendation a little off.  I still however recommend using the sensor and online SBNRC (http://www.soiltesting.okstate.edu/SBNRC/SBNRC.php) to make or base top-dress N rate.  Even if the recommendation is a little off it will still be much more accurate than just guessing. However you must look at the SBNRC and ensure that it makes agronomic sense, if it does not consult your county educator or myself.   This is discussed in more detail in my earlier blog about freeze damage.  Keep in mind no matter what, if you can see the N-Rich Strip, everything outside of the strip is suffering from nitrogen deficiency.  Decisions and fertilizer applications need to be made soon, to maximize yield.

Winter Wheat and Nitrogen Rich Strips.

Winter Wheat and Nitrogen Rich Strips.

Regardless of whether or not the strip is visible you should be planning to sense with the GreenSeeker Handheld very soon. Remember the sensor has the ability to detect differences before your eyes can.   To sense the N-Rich Strip and Farmer Practice the user should carry the sensor approximately 30 to 40 inches above the crop canopy while holding the sensor level over the crop.  While you are walking the two area the trigger should be held the entire time.  I recommend walking at minimum 100 paces for each.    The average NDVI value seen on the screen will only stay on the screen for a few seconds.  Therefore it is critical you have a method of recording the number for later use. The sensor has limited memory so it will time out is the trigger is held for an extended period of time.  If you wish to collect more NDVI readings just do it in multiple trigger pulls recording each.  Once you have the average NDVI for the N-Rich Strip and Farmer Practice you can go to the SBNRC site mentioned above to retrieve the N rate recommendation.   Once in the calculator, for those in Oklahoma, choose the “within Oklahoma” option in the bottom left hand corner of the screen.  This will allow the calculator to access the Oklahoma Mesonet to determine growing degree days.  After the location is picked from the options you will need to enter Planting Date and Date Prior to Sensing.  Additional information requested is the expected grain and fertilizer prices.  While these inputs will provide some economic evaluations they will not impact recommended N rate.

GreenSeeker HandHeld NDVI Sensor

GreenSeeker HandHeld NDVI Sensor

Below is a YouTube video in which I describe how to use the GreenSeeker to collect NDVI readings, describe the data needed to complete the online calculator, and how to interrupt the calculators output.

Managing Protein in Hard Red Winter Wheat.

A result of the 2016-17 winter wheat crop was a significant amount of discussion focused on protein levels. For two years running now, the protein levels have been low across the board.  Low protein brings in a challenge to sell, could impact local basis, and even more concerning is that low protein is an indicator that nitrogen was limiting during grain fill. Therefore, the field maximum yield potential was not achieved. In this blog, we talk about what protein is, what can be done to maintain a good protein level, and what can be done to increase protein if desired.

First, the definition of protein is any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies. Protein is also one of the many attributes that determines end-use quality and marketability of winter wheat. Sunup TV met with Dr. Carver in the baking and milling lab to create a great video discussing wheat quality impact on baking and milling.

 

We determine protein by measuring the percent of nitrogen in the grain and multiplying by a factor of 5.7. So if the grain has N % of 2.5, the protein content is 14.25.  The amount of N in the grain is affected by many variables such as weather during grain fill, yield level, and N availability during grain fill.  If weather is conducive to good grain fill and test weight is high, we will often see protein values dip. On the other hand when grain fill conditions are hot and dry and we have light test weight, wheat protein will be higher. Research has shown (Figures 1 and 2) that generally as yields increase protein levels decrease. Of course if N is limited during grain fill, the N available for the grain is reduced, and the plant is forced to get all grain N from re-immobilizing N in the leaf tissue.

Fig 1, Yield and protein averages from all of the OkState Long Term fertility trials. Data courtesy Dr. Bill Raun.

Fig 2, Grain protein and yield of from intensively managed wheat. Data Courtesy Dr. Romulo Lollato KSU.

 

Maintaining Protein, and yield.

Managing nitrogen to maintaining protein and maximizing yield comes down to making sure that N is available at critical growth periods. With wheat, the critical uptake stage is typically the time frame between hollow stem and soft dough.  The two graphs below show nitrogen uptake in wheat and barley.  If the same graph was made for dual purpose wheat, the upward swing would start sooner but would follow the same general trend.

Fig 3, Nutrient Uptake of Wheat found in “Agricultural and Biological Sciences » “Crop Production”, ISBN 978-953-51-1174-0, Chapter 5 By Juan Hirzel and Pablo Undurraga DOI: 10.5772/56095″

Fig 4, Nitrogen uptake in Barley at two nitrogen rates. http://apps.cdfa.ca.gov/frep/docs/N_Barley.html

When it comes to making sure N is available during this time of peak need, the only way we can do that is apply just before it is needed.  This means split application.  While putting all the nitrogen out pre-plant as anhydrous ammonia is the cheapest method, it is also the method that provides the lowest nitrogen use efficiency and is most likely to show deficiencies late in the season. One of the challenges with 100% preplant N application is that years with good yield potential coincide with years with good/high high rainfall, which means more nitrogen loss.  Some interesting results from studies implemented in the 2016-17 cropping season showed the importance of nitrogen application timing. The study is determining how long nitrogen application can be delayed after the N-Rich strip becomes visible (https://osunpk.com/2013/09/19/nitrogen-rich-strips/). For the study, 90 lbs of N was applied on one of the treatments at planting When that plot became visibly greener or bigger than the rest, N application was triggered. After the 0 DAVD (Days after visual difference where the day had growing degree days >0), another treatment was applied every 7 growing days for 63 growing days.  Each plot, excluding the zero N check, received 90 lbs as NH4NO3 (we use this to take the variable of volatilization out of the data). In all cases, 90 lbs applied in late January to early February was better than 90 lbs pre-plant. Keep in mind there was 0 N applied at planting for each DAVD application timing; yet, we still hit 50-80 bushel wheat with nothing but in-season N. This is the result of supplying the N when the plant needs it. I should add this is just one year of data, and every year is different. The study is being replicated again this year and will be highlighted at the Lahoma field day.

 

Fig 5, Results from the 2016-2017 delayed nitrogen study led by Mr. Joao Bigato Souza. The trials consisted of a preplant plot, unfertilized check plot, and then a series treatments in which N application was based on days from a visual difference between the pre-plant and check. All fertilized plots received 90 lbs N as NH4NO3. DAVD is days after visual difference. (Error in bottom left graph, the last date should be March 27 not April 4)

For dual-purpose wheat, the total amount of N expected for the forage production needs to be applied pre-plant. Oklahoma State recommends 30 lbs N for every 1,000 lbs of forage expected For grain-only wheat, there needs to be only 20 to 40 lbs of N available to the crop when planted (this includes residual N). The remaining N should be applied at green up or early spring.  The only way to ensure that N is applied when the crop needs it is to utilize the N-Rich Strip method. Having a N-Rich strip in your field lets you know when the wheat needs more nitrogen and when it does not.

Fig 6. Nitrogen Rich Strip (N-Rich) showing up in a No-till wheat field.

Two years testing the N-Rich Strip and Sensor based nitrogen rate calculator (SBNRC) from the Texas boarder to the Kansas boarder showed that the SBNRC on average reduced N but maintained yield and protein when compared to standard farmer practice (Table 1).

Table 1. Results from testing the Nitrogen Rick Strip and Sensor Based Calculator Method across Oklahoma wheat fields.

Increasing Protein

Some producers may plan to market high protein for a premium if available.  Fortunately, there are opportunities to increase protein via management. While most of the strategies for increasing protein happen later in the growing season, some of the early decisions can be a significant contributing factor. Variety selection and keeping the plant healthy and free of competition (i.e., pest management) throughout the growing season are going to increase the opportunity to produce high protein wheat.  After that, the equation goes back to Figures 3 and 4 and making sure the crop has access to nitrogen during peak periods, including grain fill.  If you will note, the bottom two graphs of Figure 5 both show significant increases in protein on the later applications. For both locations, this was when N (90 lbs N ac-1) was applied after full flag leaf emergence.  There has been a significant amount of work at OSU looking at late application of N stretching back into the 1990s http://nue.okstate.edu/Index_Publications/Foliar_N_Curt.pdf. The focus has been looking at timing, source, and rate. The take home of decades of work can be summarized as such.  Yes, protein can be increased with late season application, but not always. Applying N at or after flowering has a significantly greater probability of increasing protein than a application at flag-leaf. Source of N has had little impact if managed properly (UAN, 28-0-0, has to be watered down so that it does not burn the plant). The rate of N does matter quite a bit. Most of the work suggests that for every pound of N applied, the percent grain protein could increase by .05%. So to increase protein from a 12.5% to 13.5%, it would require approximately 20 lbs of N per acre.  My work has shown the same trend that a 20 lbs application at post-flowering had more consistent increases in protein than lower rates at the same time or similar rates applied at flag leaf.

This wheat season we are looking to improve our knowledge of management on protein content through multiple studies by continuing the evaluation of varieties and management practices.

If you have any questions for comments please feel free to contact me.
Brian A.
B.arnall@okstate.edu

Using a Grain Drill Grain Box for Fertilizer, Results and a Calibration guide.

For the last few years I have been challenging people to “Think Out Side the Box” when applying fertilizer. One of these application methods is to use a grain drill to put Nitrogen fertilizer into the soil. Just the act of getting N into the soil will immediately decrease the opportunity for losses. While it seems crazy many picked up on the idea of using grain drills for N applicators. The first year of a two-year study looking at documenting the practice is in the books. With data coming in from three locations, utilizing two drill types (double disk conventional and single disk no-till), the results are quite promising.  The biggest take home from year one was a 2 parter: 1) if conditions are conducive to nitrogen loss from urea volatilization, applying urea with a grain drill in the spring improved efficiency. Conversely if loss potential was low, there was no difference. 2) in some soil conditions the double disk drill could not close the furrow and this reduced the positive impact of using the drill.  The two tables below show the impact application and environment on yield.  Each of the treatments had 60 lbs of nitrogen (as Urea) applied per acre. At Chickasha the first application was made while it was fairly dry and then it rained, but the second application was made during a period in which there was no rain but a fairly significant dew each morning. This can be seen as the small effect volatilization played on the yields of the first application timing. At Lahoma, it was the early applications that had a higher risk of loss with no difference seen later.

 

Partial year one results from the topdress N with a grain drill at Chickasha OK. Timing 1 was late January and timing 2 was late February.

 

Partial year one results from the topdress N with a grain drill at Lahoma Ok. Timing 1 was early January and timing 2 was mid February, and timing 3 was early March.

 

With the results from the first year of the top-dressed drilled nitrogen studies in the books, the interest has been increasing. One question keeps popping up: for grain drills without a fertilizer box, what  do we put our grain box on to apply fertilizer.  At one point the number of inquires hit a critical mass and I sent out my crew to find grain drills and create calibration curves for DAP (18-46-0) and Urea (46-0-0).  The crew did just that.

Now please consider what is presented below is a general calibration. Much like the chart on your grain drills, it will hopefully get you close but the best-case scenario is that each drill is calibrate prior to running. As request are made we will try to add more drills to this list.

To create the following charts the guys located several different makes of drills around the OSU experiment stations. They were instructed to choose setting based on the manufacture seed rate charts in the range of 60, 90, 120 etc.  For each setting they caught a couple of row units for both Urea (46-0-0) and DAP (18-46-0). They caught each setting multiple times to get a good average.

If you look at the tables you can see the Landol 5211, Great Plains 1006NT, and International 5100 are fairly similar, with the John Deere 1560 being a little lower and the John Deere 450 significantly lower at the lower rates.  To use the tables below, consider what kind of grain drill you have and choose to follow one of the drills listed or the average of all five. If you use the average value I would expect most to find they applied a bit more than planned.  To make it even simpler, but less accurate, you can use the % wheat value.  To do this for DAP take your target rate and divide by .88, this value is what you want to set your drill to.  For example for a target rate of 100 lbs DAP per acre use the following formula:  100/.88 = 114.  Choose the manufacturer recommended settings 114 lbs wheat seed per acre.   If you are wanting to apply Urea take your target rate of urea and divide by 0.71.

 

DAP 18-46-0

Table showing the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of DAP 18-46-0.

Graph documenting the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of DAP 18-46-0.

UREA 46-0-0

Table documenting the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of Urea 46-0-0.

Graph documenting the manufacturer wheat rate setting and the resulting amount of Urea 46-0-0.

 

Again, I cannot state this enough, this is a general guide, each drill even of the same manufacture and model will likely be different.  The only way to be certain of the rate applied is to calibrate each drill individually.

Questions or comments please email me at b.arnall@okstate.edu or call 405.744.1722

 

Nitrogen source selection, the dollars and cents.

A common question most soil fertility specialist receive goes along the lines of “Where anhydrous ammonia has been one of the cheapest N formulations available, dry fertilizers can also be competitive. From a cost and effectiveness perspective, which is going to be the better deal this year?” This question was recently posed to Agronomist Fields Notes of The Wheat Farmer/Row Crop Farmer produced by Layton Ehmke.  What follows is a more in depth version of the response I provide to Layton.

WAKO NH3 applicator used for in-season application.

Unfortunately if all angles are considered this is not an easy answer as determining which nitrogen product is a multi-faceted issue.

First there is the easy aspect, N price.  At the time of writing this the local quote at  Two Rivers Link  is
NH3: 82-0-0 $490 a ton / .30 $ lb N
Urea: 46-0-0 $340 a ton / .37 $ lb N
UAN: 28-0-0 $230 a ton / .41 $ lb N

So on the outside looking in at just the price per 100 pounds of N applied NH3 is $7.00 cheaper than Urea and $11.00 less than UAN.

However the second part of the equation is application cost. Looking at the custom rate for 2015-2016 provide in the OSU Current Report 205  which outlines Oklahoma Farm and Ranch Custom Rates. While these are higher than if the producer owns the equipment it is still a good estimate which accounts for time, service, and repair.  The average NH3 application cost is $13.75 while spreading dry fertilizer is $5.41 per acre. The cost of running a sprayer is similar to sprMy Siteeader per acre. So if application and N cost is taken into account at 100 lbs N per acre NH3 is $1.34 cheaper. However the amount of N really impacts this last calculation at 50 lbs of N per acre urea is $4.84 per acre cheaper while at 200 lbs NH3 is $5.66 per acre cheaper.

The third consideration should be the efficiency of the fertilizer. I could and should right a blog solely on the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer applications. However that is a big mud hole I do not quite have the time to get into. So what follows are a few general consideration. Spring applied urea on no-till will have a significantly higher potential for N loss, from urea volatilization, than NH3 knifed in. Surface applied urea not quickly incorporated in via rain or tillage (added cost) is easily subject to losses greater than 33%. While NH3 applied with proper soil moisture and good seal will have losses in the single digits.   The losses from UAN is somewhere between Urea and NH3 as only 50% of the N in UAN is urea. Also method (steamer/flat fan), percent canopy coverage, residue level, and weather will play a part. However is all in is applied pre-plant and NH3 but urea or UAN is applied in season there may be more losses from NH3.  The loss of N should be taken into account and added to the cost of N. Lost in could be estimated in two ways, the cost of replacing lost N or the cost of lost yield. To figure replacement take the pounds of N needed (100 lbs) divide by the efficiency, in this case lets say you will lose 20% so 100/.8 = 125.  So to  get 100 lbs of N to the crop you much apply 125, which increased total N cost to $46.25 per acre.  On the flip side if you lose 20% of 100 lbs and needed all 100 lbs of N then you stand to lose (20 lbs N / 2 lbs N per bushel) 10 bushel at $4.00 per bushel.

High clearance sprayer out fitted with streamer bars for UAN application and GreenSeeker RT-200 optical sensors for on the go variable rate nitrogen application.

The final consideration is the ease and or efficiency of use. Some will choose a high priced product because they would prefer not to work with NH3 due to its  challenging properties.  The ease of use is also where the liquids (UAN) shine. On sight storage of UAN requires the least amount of infrastructure and transport is fairly easy.

The application cost of liquid is nearly the same as dry so considering the prices above 100 lbs of N as UAN will cost $4.00 per acre more. However a 100’ sprayer can cover approximately 30 acres per hour more than a spreader with a 60’ swath (Iowa State Pub). Below is a table that provides a few common applicator widths and speeds.  If you consider the average NH3 rig will run 6 mph while spinners commonly run at 12 mph, you can cover significantly more ground with urea.  Add to the equation a big sprayer and flat long field and applicators can covers a lot of ground quickly with UAN.  So if time is of the essences it makes perfect sense to spend more per pound of N  to get it on faster.

Acres covered per hour based on width and speed. High speed not applicable for NH3 application.

In the end the right source often comes down to the specific situation, time, and personal preferences. If you take all of the variables into account, you will be making best decision possible based upon the information available.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me.
Brian Arnall
Precision Nutrient Management
b.arnall@okstate.edu