The less than ideal spring conditions (i.e., cool, dry or extremely wet) have made many farmers understandably cautious about their fertilizer application rates. However, environmental conditions can change very quickly, and crop prospects can improve almost overnight. Crops can significantly benefit from additional nitrogen if this suitable situation arises.
With a few precautionary measures and timely precipitation, top-dressed nitrogen can effectively boost yields and produce attractive economic benefits. Research over the years has shown that under ideal conditions, top-dressed nitrogen can produce yield responses that are very similar to nitrogen banded at seeding.
To make top-dressed nitrogen effective, it is important to recognize the factors that influence performance and improve effectiveness:
- To have an impact on yield, the sooner the nitrogen gets into the plant, the better.
- Yield responses to N can be obtained when applied 2-3 weeks following crop emergence.
- As a rule, apply prior to tillering in cereals and bolting in canola. If application is delayed, the impact of the nitrogen will shift from yield to protein enhancement. In that case, hard red spring wheat is a good candidate for top-dressing.
Importance of Rainfall
Timely rainfall is the most important factor. Top-dressed nitrogen, regardless of the nitrogen product used, will only become effective once it is moved into the rooting zone. Either irrigation or a significant rainfall event of more than 1/2” is required. Monitor weather patterns and apply supplemental nitrogen, if precipitation is expected within 2-3 days.
Product Selection and Application Method
Several nitrogen products can be used for topdressing. All perform well if there is significant precipitation within hours of application.The longer the exposure on the soil surface, the greater the difference in product performance.The difference in performance is primarily due to volatilization losses that occur with surface applied urea or both volatilization and denitrification losses for urea plus nitrate containing products, such as UAN.
How can Volatilization and Denitrification Losses be Minimized?
The use of a urea stabilizer and nitrification inhibitors with proven effectiveness, such as AGROTAIN®, CENTURO® and TRIBUNE® can help combat these losses. Research has shown that volatilization losses can be as significant as 40% but using AGROTAIN treated urea can help decrease of volatilization losses protecting a grower’s nitrogen investment. We are looking forward to the results from our research with TRIBUNE that started in the three prairie provinces this year.
To learn more about a solution for your top-dress applications contact your KAS representative today.