One way to do that is by following the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework. Agronomic data has shown that growers can better achieve their goals by following the 4R guidelines:
- Right source
- Right rate
- Right time
- Right place
“Growers know their crops need the right nutrients to meet their yield goals,” said Tim Laatsch, director of North America agronomy for Koch Agronomic Services (KAS). “But it’s not just about applying the right nutrient source, it’s also essential to protect that source in an effort to minimize the loss of the inputs they’ve invested in. That’s not just good business, it’s good stewardship too.”
The Agronomy of Stewardship
No matter when nitrogen is applied, during the spring or the fall, it’s vulnerable to loss. If not protected, as much as 40% of a grower’s applied nitrogen could be lost in three ways, through denitrification, nitrate leaching and ammonia volatilization.
Factors outside of our control — like inclement weather conditions, soil temperatures and soil conditions — can accelerate those losses.
Lost nitrogen is not only a negative for agronomic sustainability and a grower’s bottom line, but so is putting down additional unprotected nitrogen in an attempt to make up for those losses.
One way to illustrate this is by thinking of nitrogen as cattle. If there’s a hole in the fence, would you go to the expense of buying more cattle when they get loose? No, you’d fix the hole in the fence to avoid losing the cattle to begin with.
Applying more nitrogen than needed is not the answer to achieving yield goals. Since nitrogen is one of the biggest input expense growers have each year, excess unprotected nitrogen can only translate into additional expense and more nitrogen loss to the environment.
“For multiple reasons, you can see that protecting applied nitrogen should be a priority for every grower to keep the right nutrients available to their crops when and where they’re needed,” Laatsch said. “If a grower hasn’t used stabilizers in previous growing seasons, they may not be able to fully appreciate the benefits they’ll get.”
The Benefits of Protecting Nitrogen Against Loss
To improve stewardship best practices and optimize yields, growers are encouraged to use nitrogen stabilizers as a part of the 4R framework.
“A nutrient management plan that focuses on good stewardship will help to sustain a grower’s operation for the future,” said Kassidy Frederick, KAS product manager. “Protecting inputs is a vital part of that equation, including the investment in nitrogen stabilizers.”
Two tools from KAS in a grower’s toolbox offer protection for differing forms of applied nitrogen. CENTURO™ nitrogen stabilizer is an easy-to-handle nitrification inhibitor offering below-ground protection for anhydrous ammonia or UAN. To extend above-ground protection of urea and UAN, KAS also offers growers ANVOL™ nitrogen stabilizer.
Let’s look at a couple examples that show how using best stewardship practices with nitrogen stabilizers would positively impact nutrient investment and yield goals.
CENTURO on anhydrous ammonia
A grower applies anhydrous ammonia at a rate of 100 pounds an acre. With an anticipated loss of 35% without a stabilizer, this grower could miss out on 28 bushels per acre of yield potential. On 500 acres, this would equal 14,000 fewer total bushels. If corn prices are at $6.90 a bushel, their lost potential earnings would be $96,600 from not protecting their nitrogen investment.
If that same grower protected their nitrogen with CENTURO, they would spend $10.07 an acre for CENTURO-treated anhydrous ammonia at a 5 gallon per ton rate. For 500 acres, that investment would be $5,035.
The good news for this grower is that by following best stewardship practices and using CENTURO to protect their nitrogen investment, their bottom line would improve with a 19:1 return on investment per acre.
ANVOL on UAN
In this example, a grower is applying unprotected UAN at 60 pounds per acre. This grower could expect to lose up to 15% of their total applied nitrogen, resulting in 7.2 fewer bushels per acre. Over 500 acres, that translates into 3,600 fewer bushels and 4,500 pounds of untreated UAN lost to the environment. With corn prices at $6.90 a bushel, this grower can expect up to $24,840 in lost yields.
If that same grower had protected their UAN with ANVOL, the total cost for the solution on 500 acres would be $2,285. Protecting their nitrogen investment with ANVOL, they can potentially see a $22,555 profit with a 10:1 per acre increase over not protecting their input.
Learning More About Good Stewardship
Growers looking to have an operation with a healthy bottom line to hand to the next generation will follow best stewardship practices with a strong nutrient management plan, including the protection of applied nitrogen.
To learn more about being a good steward of the land and the role CENTURO and ANVOL nitrogen stabilizers play in the equation, contact your KAS representative today.