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Nitrogen Management Starts with Recycling Your Residue

December 22, 2020

Tim Chitwood

VP of Agronomy Division

by Tim Chitwood, VP of QLF Agronomy

If you missed your window this fall and another opportunity to aid in digestion, breaking down, and recycling your residue, read on and learn more about how you can better manage your Nitrogen and your residue in any season—spring, summer, and fall.

When the soil warms up in spring, the microbial organisms that break down the previous season’s corn stalks use both carbon and nitrogen as a food source.  All living things require the essentials, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen.  This is seen by some people as a competition with plants and the reverse of N-mineralization happens, that being N-immobilization—where soil organisms process nitrate and ammonium nitrogen along with potentially all your residue, and hold it in their “little dead bug bodies” as organic forms.

When those organisms are busy breaking down the corn stalks, L-CBF products also demonstrate they are holding nitrogen in place.  Because plants can only use the inorganic forms, we often hear about immobilization referred to as tie up and the “carbon penalty.”  Corn residue for example has a high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio – 60:1. The higher the ratio, the more nitrogen and energy is required to help break down the stalks. The longer the stalks take to break down, the longer the nutrient is potentially unavailable to your crop.  Soil microorganisms have a C:N ratio ~ 8:1. Therefore they must acquire enough additional carbon and nitrogen from the environment to tackle big jobs like corn stalks.  Creating higher bug counts in soils increase this rich biomass source of nutrients stored in readily available microbial protein.  These nutrients can be conserved and protected from losses while in this organic form.  Basically, a biological system requires energy and they draw that from shared food sources.  Just like us, soil microbes need food, shelter, and work.  We want your soil biology to be very reproductive and create opportunities to hold and recycle nutrients.

Perhaps we could reconsider all that residue as an opportunity.  Some will say there is a penalty because of the energy and nitrogen needed to digest the residue when actually there is a big “carbon opportunity” for tapping into more nutrients for the next crop while building soil.  The corn factories you invested time, money, and energy to build last season manufactured the fruits of your labor your combine carried away.  Left behind the harvest of your grain is a bank of fuel, fertilizer, and carbon opportunity in the residue.  On average a 200-bushel corn crop has over 6 tons of corn stover.

Arise Research and Discovery, 2015, measured in an eight-week span from March to May an increase in fertilizer value of N+P2O5+K2O with addition of BOOST into nitrogen.  The Control’s available N+P2O5 +K20 decreased from March = $186/acre down to May = $181/acre.  While the fertilizer value of the available N+P2O5 +K20 from UAN+BOOST treatment increased 144% from March = $89/acre to May = $217/acre.  This residue decomposition experiment was also trialed and implemented with fall applied BOOST and tracked again the following 2016 year and produced great results including yield.

QLF Agronomy residue decomposition trials show the value of L-CBF BOOST®, demonstrating improvements in both residue recycling and improvements in total Nitrogen (N) availability.  From March to May over an eight-week span BOOST treated nitrogen showed 11% improvement in decomposition while at the same time increasing Water Extractable Organic Nitrogen (WEON) availability by 368%.


L-CBF BOOST extends the life cycle of your applied nitrogen, working with your nitrogen cycles to retain and recover more of each unit and dollar invested.  Across 10 independent trials spanning 6 years of data collected from several states and regions, BOOST repeatedly showed why so many are using this product and approach to managing nitrogen more efficiently.  Positive yields ranging from 5 to 22 more bushels across many different applications with ranging rates, timings, and placements.


+5 bushels Arise Research and Discovery, Martinsville, IL, Years 2015, 2016
+3.2 bushels Real Farm Research, Aurora, NE, Year 2015
+6.3 bushels Precision Ag Research, Clarion, IA, Years 2017, 2018, 2019
+17.5 bushels Precision Ag Research, Clarion, IA, Year 2019
+5 Bushels Precision Technology Institute, Pontiac, IL, Year 2020
+22 bushels Arise Research and Discovery, Martinsville, IL, Year 2020


Five years later QLF Agronomy generated more exciting results.  Recently we released some NEW 2020 data also from Martinsville, Illinois, measuring a 22% decrease in nitrate (NO3-) leaching found in field tile drainage water with the use of L-CBF BOOST.  These same treatments used 20 lbs. less (9% less) applied nitrogen per acre and while gaining a twenty-two bushel per acre (12% more) increase in corn yield.  BOOST inclusion with liquid nitrogen was a $71 per acre net return for the farmer.

Managing residues and nitrogen management can work together.  Addressing both programs can have real world impacts on efficiencies, soil health, and our overall environment. By consistently using L-CBF BOOST with your liquid nitrogen you can accomplish more results with both programs at the same application and times.  More on residue and nutrient recycling along with proven measurements of biological activity will be published by QLF Agronomy in weeks to come!  Stay tuned into our continued successes and reach out to your local Regional Sales Agronomist for more information.


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