Northern Iowa farmer Mark Hanna credits a strong fertility program for his decent corn crop in a year that brought tough growing conditions.
"Our crop's plant health really stood out last season. Our corn stayed green much longer into the season while fields around us were brown. Standability was good. We attribute it to our fertilizer program," says Hanna, who farms with his sons Andrew and Philip near Forest City. "We had more available nutrients when the plants were being stressed by lack of rain."
The Hannas used a nitrogen stabilizer to improve nutrient-use efficiency. Research has shown that up to half of applied nitrogen fertilizer can be lost to leaching, volatilization or denitrification. They used NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager with their spring application of 28% UAN. The previous fall they had applied MAP with AVAIL Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer. They also side-dressed their corn-on-corn ground with an additional 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre.
Despite rainfall being 14 inches less than the season average, the Hannas managed to harvest a corn crop that averaged 170 bushels per acre, just 8% less than their normal average yield. Spotty showers in July and August helped yields in some fields. Depending on soil type, their corn yields ranged from 100 bushels per acre to 190 bushels per acre.
Stabilizer product helps reduce nitrogen loss from leaching and volatilization
"NutriSphere-N saved our nitrogen from leaching away and volatilizing into the air," says Hanna. "We had greener crops later in the season because the nitrogen was not running out. The longer plants stay green, the longer they are putting on yield. And, good fertility means stalk quality and standability are not being compromised."
Hanna's fertilizer dealer, Duane Harms with Farmers Cooperative Association in Forest City, has heard several stories like Hanna's. "The people who used NutriSphere-N this year had greener cornfields from top to bottom than the people who didn't use it. It was a real eye-opener," says Harms. "That tells me there was a fuller tank of nutrients in the field for the plants. I'm a firm believer if you have a good fertility program you need a lot less water for that crop to grow and mature."
New university research shows nitrogen stabilizer protects against long-term volatilization
A new University of Missouri study, released in October 2012, shows NutriSphere-N reduced the cumulative long-term volatilization of nitrogen more than four times better than untreated urea. The study compared four products: plain urea, urea-treated with Agrotain, urea-treated with NutriSphere-N and urea-treated with NutriSphere-N QDO.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
During the 41-day period:
* Plain urea lost four times more nitrogen than NutriSphere-N-treated urea. (375.42 ppm ammonia for untreated urea contrasted with 84.17 ppm for NutriSphere-N-treated urea)
* Agrotain-treated urea lost two-and-a-half times more nitrogen than NutriSphere-N-treated urea. (202.67 ppm ammonia with Agrotain versus 84.17 ppm with NutriSphere-N)
"After planting, light rains of less than ¼ to ½ inch are prime triggers for volatilization of nitrogen," says David Dunn, soil labs manager at the University of Missouri's Fisher Delta Research Center, who conducted the study. "On the other hand, heavy rains can cause leaching. Anaerobic bacteria in wet soil absorb oxygen atoms from nitrates, leading to a loss of nitrogen through denitrification." Dunn notes this 2012 study confirms a long-term efficacy advantage for NutriSphere-N that was also observed in a 2010 volatilization study he conducted.
While there are several products available to stabilize nitrogen and reduce loss, NutriSphere-N protects against all three forms of nitrogen loss; volatilization, leaching and denitrification.
Big share of growers are using nitrogen stabilizer
About 80% of Farmers Cooperative Association's customers use NutriSphere-N with their UAN fertilizer application to reduce nitrogen loss, according to Harms. With the hot, dry weather in 2012, he says many people who side-dressed urea without a stabilizer lost nitrogen from volatilization because there wasn't enough moisture to take the nitrogen down to the root system. Harms has observed a 10% to 15% yield increase when customers use NutriSphere-N and AVAIL in combination.
The Hannas, who plant 80% of their acreage to minimum tillage corn and 20% to soybeans, have used NutriSphere-N for three years. "After the first year, we saw such a difference in plant health and standability that we decided to use it on all of our corn ground," says Hanna. "I'll wrap my arms around a technology if I feel it's cost effective and the ROI is worth it."
The Hannas have dropped their maximum nitrogen application rate from 195 pounds per acre to 180 pounds per acre since adding NutriSphere-N to their fertilizer program. "We're making better use of the nitrogen by using a stabilizer. It helps us be more conservation-minded," he says.