Evaluating Nitrogen Under Unique Conditions
Nitrogen management has been a major focus of our research program over the past few seasons. This spring has given us an opportunity to gather data during some very unusual weather conditions.
We’ve been sampling for nitrate and ammonium levels on a monthly basis, at both the one-foot and two-foot levels, at our N-Rate plots. We’ve kept careful application records at these locations so we’re working under controlled conditions. I’ve been sending monthly updates on what we’re finding to keep our customers in the loop. Based on our Feb. 1 samples, it appears we have nitrate conversion in the 35% to 40% range, with the balance in ammonium. That’s not especially alarming, unless we get a significant rain event.
We were concerned about soil temperatures during our early warmup, but interestingly the temperatures didn’t get much above 50 degrees. Presently, according to our weather stations, soil temperatures are about 50 degrees at the 2-inch depth and 45 degrees at the 15-inch level. Our testing at the beginning of March hasn’t shown a significant change in the nitrate/ammonium balance nor any significant nitrogen loss. The greater concern, actually, may be the lack of moisture we’ve received this winter. Hopefully, that will turn around.
One of the challenges I face every year is developing a testing plan for our research program. I’m always excited to get my hands on a product that no one else has seen. That is occurring more often, which is a testament to the credibility of our testing program. Manufacturers are taking note and seeking us out as a valid testing partner.
In 2016, we didn’t see a great deal of separation in the performance of many of the products and treatments we were testing. We believe this was due to the fact that we had excellent growing conditions, very little stress and uniformly good yields last season. As a result, we’ll be evaluating many of the products for at least another year, because our goal is to generate valid data that our customers can use.
One area of emphasis this year will be on a systems approach to the use of fungicides and foliar-applied nutritionals, guided by tissue sampling and scouting. In particular, we’ll be looking at late-season foliar applications.
We look forward to another season of testing and evaluation, all with the goal of generating data and recommendations you can use to benefit your farming operation.