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Creating Efficiencies within Your Fertilizer Program

May 15, 2024

Shannon Schumacher

Regional Sales Agronomist MN/WI


Shannon Schumacher; QLF Agronomy RSA SW Minnesota, NW Wisconsin


Supported by three years of research, a recent University of Illinois study discovered that corn primarily absorbs approximately 67% of its nitrogen from naturally occurring soil sources, rather than from applied nitrogen fertilizers.

Looking at this from an economic perspective, 67% of the money being spent on nitrogen is going down the drain (literally- down through the soil and entering water sources).

Below are several strategies to enhance nitrogen utilization efficiency on your farm:

1.  Add carbon to your nitrogen applications.

“Nitrogen moves in all directions so it must be joined by a carbohydrate to help stabilize it” – Dr. Arden Anderson.

By adding carbon to your nitrogen applications, you increase your soil’s ability to hold onto and mineralize nitrogen when the plant needs it.

Adding a 10% Inclusion of L-CBF BOOST to your liquid nitrogen (32% or 28% UAN) will result in:

    • Increased Biological ActivityReduced Solution pH (more friendly to roots)
    • Reduced Volatilization (nitrogen gas loss)
    • Increased Organic Nitrogen Pool (Water Extractable Organic Nitrogen or WEON)
    • Promotion of Nutrient Uptake (all nutrients, not just N)
    • Reduced Leaching (N loss through soil water)
    • Reduced Salt Impact (fertilizers are salts)

2.  Assist plants in reducing energy consumption for nitrogen processing.

One of the main functions of nitrogen within the plant is protein synthesis. Therefore, by streamlining protein synthesis, we can be more efficient with applied nitrogen.

When the corn plant takes up nitrogen, several conversions must happen to build proteins.

This process occurs within the plant:

Each of these arrows represent an energy cost from the plant.

Each of these arrows represent an energy cost from the plant.

By applying amino sources of nitrogen, rather than nitrate or ammonium, we can help our plant to “spend” less energy in the processes of creating proteins. By streamlining this process, there will be more energy available within the plant and result in more complete proteins.

3.  Play with your Nitrogen Rate – Pick a Field and Push the Limits.

  1. Reduce your nitrogen rate by 10% and replace it with L-CBF BOOST
  2. Reduce reliance on urea, UAN, and anhydrous by finding more efficient nitrogen sources like L-CBF Amino-15
  3. Put out nitrogen rate trials on your farm
    • Put strips out with 10 or 15 less pounds of N
  4. Reduce nitrogen rate early in the season and apply amino forms of nitrogen foliar in a later application

4.  Promote Microbial Health in your Soil.

  1. Make sure there is good gas exchange in our soils – bugs need to breathe!
  2. The main source of biological food is carbon, most of which comes from root exudates, or can be supplemented by using Liquid-Carbon Based Fertilizer.

The Negatives of Excess Nitrogen:

  1. Loss of money spend on fertilizer
  2. Environmental pollution
  3. Agronomics:
    • Excess Nitrate…
      • Leads to excessive vegetative growth and less reproductive growth
      • Increases water requirements
      • Reduces nutrient absorption by changing the rhizosphere pH
      • Promotes premature death

With the possibility of fertilizer regulation looming over the agriculture industry, there is a challenge at the hands of all farmers. What are you doing to reduce your reliance on commercial fertilizers?

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