Growing Knowledge

Read the latest insights from our experts as they cover agronomy issues that matter most to you and your operation.

Get Nitrogen Where It Needs to Be

Darrin Roberts
Regional Agronomist
There’s no doubt you want to get as much of the nitrogen you apply as possible into your crop. But studies have shown that for every 10 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer applied to cereal crops such as corn, less than 5 pounds are actually taken up by the crop.1 That’s a lot of lost nitrogen!
Here are some tips to help keep nitrogen accessible to your crop and prevent it from going where it shouldn’t.
1. Apply nitrogen when the crop is actively using it.
With nitrogen, timing is everything. If you apply nitrogen in the fall when crops aren’t growing, you could experience far more loss than if you apply it in the spring or during the season. Applied nitrogen can quickly convert to nitrate, which is highly mobile in the soil and may be prone to leaching into groundwater or tile lines if it is not taken up by the crop.
2. Include a nitrogen stabilizer.
If you do need to apply a portion of your nitrogen in the fall or prior to planting in the spring, include a stabilizer with it. With a stabilizer, you can extend the period of time  nitrogen is kept in ammonium form, which the soil can hold and make available for the crop to take up in-season.
3. Perform a soil and/or tissue test.
Talk with your agronomist about doing a pre-side-dress soil nitrate test (PSNT). The PSNT, which is usually performed in late spring, is done prior to your side-dress application to estimate how much nitrate you have in the soil and whether it’s sufficient to supply the crop’s nitrogen need until maturity. Tissue testing can also help identify nutrient needs at critical times during the growing season. In addition, you should soil test every couple of years for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), which aren’t as variable in the soil as nitrogen (N) is. The more closely you manage NPK, the greater your yield potential.
4. Consider response-to-nitrogen (RTN) scores.
For the last seven years, WinField United has measured RTN scores of various hybrids through our Answer Plot® testing program. A high RTN score indicates the hybrid has an increased chance of a return on investment from applying additional nitrogen, or managing nitrogen for availability later in the growing season. A low RTN score indicates the hybrid has an acceptable yield potential even in situations where nitrogen may be limited. To learn more about specific hybrid RTN scores, visit
Keep fertilizer top-of-mind this season and work with your agronomist to create the best nutrient management plan for your fields. Doing so will help optimize ROI and yield potential, and keep your nitrogen where it should be: in your crop.
1. Raun WR, Johnson GV. Improving nitrogen use efficiency for cereal production. Agron J, 1999, 91:357–363.
With the growing season right around the corner, we’re here to help you with your holistic plant nutrition plan, starting with mitigating stress at planting and understanding your crop’s genetic potential. We’ll continue to explore all aspects of plant nutrition throughout the year right here on the Growing Knowledge blog, so be sure to check back for more plant health tips.
WinField United is a trademark and Answer Plot and WinField are registered trademarks of Winfield Solutions, LLC.

What’s Your Corn Nutrient Strategy for 2018?

Jonathan Zuk
Regional Agronomist
Be sure you’re adequately nourishing your hybrids from planting through all critical growth stages by mapping out your corn nutrient strategy now. Here are some tips to help get your corn plants off to a strong start.
1. Ensure proper hybrid placement.
The first step in setting up plants for success is placing hybrids correctly. Work with your agronomist to identify hybrid-specific data, including response to soil type, response to nitrogen, response to crop rotation and response to population, so you can place hybrids appropriately.
2. Plant seed at the correct depth; be choosy about soil conditions.
I recommend planting corn at a depth of 1¾ inches. In many parts of the country, corn seed can be subjected to wide variances in spring temperatures in that first inch of soil. Temperatures tend to be slightly more consistent below a 1-inch soil depth. Planting in proper soil conditions helps establish ideal seed-to-soil contact, water imbibition and proper initiation of root growth.
3. Use a nitrogen stabilizer.
If you have planted a hybrid with a high response-to-nitrogen score, not only is it important to manage nitrogen season-long, but also to use a nitrogen stabilizer to protect the investment in your seed and your fertilizer program. Talk with your agronomist about what stabilizer would work best with your program and what the proper application timing would be.
4. Use a starter fertilizer for a preemergent nutrient boost.
Encourage emergence at planting with an in-furrow application of a phosphorus starter. Phosphorus is immobile in the soil and hard for a plant to get into its root system, so in some cases a phosphorus fertilizer enhancer may be used to optimize uptake. Applying phosphorus in the spring gets it right next to the root zone to optimize that initial uptake. A balanced starter can also promote emergence. There are many starter fertilizers on the market; talk with your agronomist about which one best fits your program.
5. Apply a plant growth regulator.
Apply a plant growth regulator (PGR) to promote a larger root system, which can result in quicker and more efficient nutrient uptake, faster emergence and stronger stalks. Not any PGR will do the trick, so be sure to talk with your agronomist about the right one for your fields. PGR applications can be especially beneficial to your early-planted hybrids to help set them up for success.
6. Use hybrid-specific data and tissue sampling for in-season nutrient management.
To be certain you’re getting the necessary nutrients into the plant from emergence through vegetative growth stages, combine in-season imagery (ISI) with tissue sampling. Response-to-nitrogen and response-to-fungicide scores can also be used to help determine how each hybrid may respond to these types of applications.
7. Employ precision ag to target nutrient placement.
Use soil samples, past yield maps and ISI to identify areas where yield potential may be falling behind or poised to increase. After that, well-timed tissue and/or soil sampling can indicate key nutrient levels so you know exactly where, when and how much product should be applied.
Talk with your agronomist about putting similar practices to work in your fields this spring.

Adjusting Your Plan for Optimal ROI Potential

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField United
Joining us on the Deal With Yield® is Jim Hedges, a corn and soybean farmer based in Central Illinois and Senior Director of Strategy and Insights, Ag Technology, for WinField United. On this episode, Joel and Jim talk about adjusting plans in-season and the subsequent impact to ROI potential. Tune in for tips on using ag tech tools to guide in-season decisions and to hear about Jim’s most challenging landlord, his mom.
Season 11 – Episode 4: Adjusting Your Plan for Optimal ROI Potential

The Deal With Yield is a podcast series covering the issues that matter most in crop production.

Digging into Compaction

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField United
This episode of The Deal With Yield® looks at fall soil prep. Listen for Kyle and Joel’s two cents about fall nitrogen applications and correcting compaction issues. Plus, Kyle gives an important lesson on what turkey has to do with soil temperature.
Season 10 – Episode 4: Digging into Compaction

The Deal With Yield® is a podcast series covering the issues that matter most in crop production.

Tips for Fall Soil Sampling

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField United
Hosts Joel and Kyle share advice for fall soil prep on this episode of The Deal With Yield®. The guys talk about the best ways to prepare for a successful 2018 crop, including tips for a larger return on both corn and soybeans.
Season 10 – Episode 3: Tips for Fall Soil Sampling

The Deal With Yield® is a podcast series covering the issues that matter most in crop production.

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