Ask 50 farmers about their biggest concerns, and you might hear “rising input costs” 50 times. To say prices have increased ahead of the 2022 planting season is the understatement of the year. Nitrogen prices, in particular, are forcing many corn farmers to get creative and learn how to do more with less.
But if you asked all 50 of those farmers about the timing and rates of their nitrogen application, you might get 50 different answers. So many variables exist: soil type, CEC, irrigation availability, acreage, equipment, and more. With prices continuing to rise, finding solutions to mitigate costs and improve yields—amongst all those variables—is no easy task.
No individual can control the swings in fertilizer prices. But you can take the reins on the tools you use to maximize what you have, and increase your chances chart-topping yields.
Improve your application precision
To maximize yields and minimize fertilizer waste, start with application accuracy. Focus on careful calibration of anhydrous ammonia or liquid products. You can also install precision controls to avoid overlaps, which can pave the way for variable rate applications.
With nitrogen prices doubling (or even tripling)—and no sign of immediate relief—it’s critical for growers to understand exactly how much nitrogen they’re applying and in how many passes. If there’s an opportunity to purchase less, that change in your input order could make a huge difference.
Split your nitrogen applications
Splitting nitrogen applications (or “spoon feeding”) in as many passes as possible is ideal. But if your land doesn’t have irrigation options, you’re more limited. This solution also might not be realistic for larger growers trying to apply across all their acres.
Your local AgriGold agronomist can help determine the best splitting strategy. Their expertise will help you understand which hybrids are likely to respond to later applications, and which should get more nitrogen up-front. With that info in hand, you can fine-tune the timing or rate of your nitrogen applications, eliminating waste.
Evaluate your soil’s biology
But what if you’re doing everything right with your nitrogen application, and still aren’t seeing results? One of growers’ most common problems is not knowing how much nitrogen will be mineralized in the soil during growing season (and more importantly, when it will be available to their crop).
The soil’s biological life can help you answer this question. In general, the higher the biological life, the higher potential for mineralization, and the more you can reduce your nitrogen rates (without risking yield). Many tests exist that can measure soil biology, including the Haney test, where samples are shipped to labs (ask your agronomist for your best options). These tests have a cost, but investing in information can get you off the hamster wheel of applying more and more nitrogen just to maintain yield.
We can no longer treat our farms as simple chemistry sets. If you want to efficiently improve your yield, harnessing your soil’s biological potential is an important shift to make.
Whether it’s improving your application precision, determining your splits, or using your soil’s biology to make decisions, the same strategy won’t work for every farm or every situation. Work with your local AgriGold agronomy expert to test different strategies and determine which are the most cost-effective and drive the best yield results.
These tests don’t have to be on every single acre. Test at a smaller scale, then migrate solutions to the rest of the farm. And remember, you don’t have to design your experiment yourself. Your agronomist can help you set up the proper side-by-side trial.
In the face of rising input costs (especially fertilizers like nitrogen) it’s more important than ever to find adaptable, creative methods to maximize your yield potential and improve profitability. Your AgriGold agronomist stands ready to make a fertilizer plan for your farm. Let’s Talk Seed.