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Split Applied Nitrogen

June 20, 2023

Tim Chitwood

VP of Agronomy Division

Tim Chitwood, VP of Agronomy

Split-applied nitrogen (N) fertilizer applications can play an important role in a nutrient management strategy that is productive, profitable, and environmentally responsible. Diversifying (N) sources and dividing total nitrogen applications into two or more treatments can help growers enhance nutrient use efficiency, promote optimum yields, and mitigate the loss of nutrients.  Using QLF’s Liquid Carbon-Based Fertilizers (L-CBF) not only promote plant productivity but also create measurable positive gains for soil health.  QLF Agronomy field research has demonstrated L-CBF products benefit biological soil activity by supplying a source of available carbon (C) or energy and in turn making plant nutrients from fertilizers and soil systems more available.  Soil microorganisms are the main agents of nutrient recycling and mineralization rates have been heavily dependent on the quantity and quality of the organic material and (C) supplied in the soil.  See the measured results from a two-year study that proved with L-CBF BOOST included with UAN applications there was more microbial respiration (HT3 Test) and available carbon (%MAC).  See Figure 2.

Besides the risk of loss, excess consumption of the more energy-taxing nitrogen forms can create unfavorable imbalances and a reduction in plant health.  We need to think more about the diversity of nitrogen sources and delivery methods and bring balance to not only the amounts and timings but also a better balance with biology.  In addition to protecting crop productivity and fertilizer investments, farmers have a broader stake in limiting nitrogen losses. Excess nitrates in the soil under warm, wet, or waterlogged conditions can result in emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas whose global warming potential far exceeds that of carbon dioxide.  QLF Agronomy research performed a two-year nitrate leachate study and decreased the amount of NO3- collected in the hydrological lysimeter wells.  Lysimeter wells are typically tanks that define a specific boundary to contain soil water.  Nitrate samples were collected from ten-foot-deep lysimeter wells on days where precipitation exceeded 1.5 inches. Fifteen leachate samples were collected over two growing seasons and resulted in an average of 17% less NO3 with UAN treated with QLF’s BOOST.

You can smell the difference when treating Urea Ammonium Nitrate (UAN 28-32%) with QLF’s BOOST. With just 10% and 20% inclusions of BOOST the smell of ammonia drops with the pH, cutting the pH almost in half, moving from approximately a pH of 7.5 down to 4.65 and 3.96 pH levels.  Converting more ammonia nitrogen to a more favorable less volatile ammonium form improves efficiencies and reduces losses.  Ammonium forms are less likely to emit greenhouse gases and also are less vulnerable to denitrification than nitrate fertilizers.  In addition to lower nitrogen solution pH, BOOST delivers more energy (available Carbon).  When utilizing QLF’s carbon-rich microbial food source in your nitrogen programs we are working with biology and the nitrogen cycle versus running interference.  Often there is more nitrogen applied before the crop can use it and not stored in a form that can be easily recycled, such as organic forms.  Consider how important organic forms of nitrogen are to safely hold nutrients.  They are very stable and easily exchangeable.  QLF has invested in several nitrogen studies where organic nitrogen levels were measured and resulted in significant increases.  Water Extractable Organic Nitrogen (WEON) is the amount of the total water extractable (N) minus the inorganic nitrogen (NH4-N + NO3-N).  This (N) pool is highly related to the water extractable organic (C) pool and will be easily broken down by soil microbes and released to the soil in inorganic (N) forms that are readily plant available.  An example of soil WEON levels measured before (May 29th) and after (June 24th) side-dress nitrogen application (June 8th) demonstrated benefits and tracked the nitrogen movement.  From this study, proven advantages incorporating L-CBF BOOST yielded a two-year average of +13 bushels per acre (205.5 Bu/A vs. 218.7 Bu/A) while applying 20 lbs. less nitrogen.

QLF L-CBF products extend the life cycle of your applied nitrogen, working with your nitrogen cycles to retain and recover more of each unit and dollar invested. L-CBF products deliver an energy BOOST and improve environmental stability, formulating properties that enhance biological functions and utilizing lower pH. QLF L-CBF both buffers salt and reduces ammonia loss from volatility, encouraging consumption by biology to reduce the upward and downward movement of liquid nitrogen.

Depending on soil type, climate, agronomic practices, and other factors, nitrogen fertilizer can be vulnerable to losses. Denitrification, leaching, and volatilization impose the greatest costs and largest losses to productivity and potential negative environmental impacts.  By postponing a portion of the nitrogen treatment until the crop is better able (actively growing) to utilize the nutrient, plants take up the nitrogen more quickly and efficiently, getting more for the grower from their fertilizer investment and reducing fertilizer losses that can contribute to unwanted environmental concerns.  Most believe we can do better.  Regardless of the timing of (N) applications, QLF has proven to be more effective as a partner and pairing liquid nitrogen sources with L-CBF BOOST included in any (N) trip across the field.  There are several possibilities for spreading out your (N) with placements including pre-plant broadcast, planter bands, post-emerge foliar opportunities, side-dressing, and fertilizer (N) through irrigation.  Placement and timings are not limited to just one product or material.

Find out where your program can benefit from a couple of versatile products manufactured by QLF Agronomy.  L-CBF BOOST and L-CBF Amino15 can improve your split applications of nitrogen and provide more efficient options for additional in-season nitrogen passes.

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