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AgronomyEpisode 173

In-season crop nutrient strategies

Matthew Wilde
Jul 9, 2024

Excessive rainfall this spring and early summer throughout much of the Corn Belt likely resulted in fertilizer loss. Jake Shelton, a crop nutrient expert with CHS, explains what nutrients crops may need and the steps growers can take to help maximize yield potential.

Nitrogen deficiency could be a problem this year, Shelton says, since fertilizer is water-soluble and many areas have seen multiple rounds of heavy rainfall.

“With nitrogen playing such a significant role in yield potential, I would highly recommend it being the starting point for in-season fertility applications,” Shelton says.

In saturated fields, he says sulfur and boron deficiencies can also occur.

In-crop fertilizer applications are dependent on crop stage and equipment availability, Shelton says. “The most effective way to apply large amount of nutrients is by sidedressing liquid or dry fertilizer. When crops reach the reproductive phase, foliar feeding is more effective.”

Tissue testing

Once nutrient deficiencies are spotted in developing crops, Shelton says yield loss has likely already occurred. A corn plant with a sulfur deficiency, for example, will show yellow leaves toward the top.

Tissue testing can help farmers determine crop nutrients needs in real-time to guide application decisions this season and next season.

“I’m a huge proponent of tissue testing during the growing season,” Shelton says. “It provides a snapshot of nutrient levels in plants to make proactive decisions before visual signs of nutrient deficiencies appear. It also provides data to make potential tweaks for fertilizer applications for the following year.”

Agronomic solutions

Nitrogen loss through leaching, dentrification or volatization is a continual challenge for farmers. Using nitrogen inhibitors is one way to keep the vital nutrient in the field for plant use.

“Using the N-Edge® family of nitrogen stabilizers is a great way to protect your nitrogren investment above and below ground. I highly encourage everyone to gain an understanding of how their fields are at risk for losing nitrogen and how nitrogen stabilizers can protect against losses in the future,” Shelton says.

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