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Enhancing corn crop nitrogen efficiency with soil scanners

Enhancing corn crop nitrogen efficiency with soil scanners

By-line: Denise Faguy, 

Water and nitrogen are the primary limiting factors for corn crops. Nitrogen, in particular, is both the largest volume nutrient supplied and the most expensive. However, its application can be unpredictable due to its mobility in the soil, especially during periods of heavy rainfall.  

Around 75% of the nitrogen uptake by the plant occurs after the V10 growth stage, with the remainder used later in the season. Thus, early signs of nitrogen deficiency, such as kernel abortion and stalk cannibalization, indicate that the plant has already responded to shortages. 

To improve nitrogen efficiency, it's crucial to adopt a "spoon-feeding" approach, providing just enough nitrogen at the right time. This requires understanding how much nitrogen the corn plant needs at various growth stages and how to measure and apply it accurately. Ron Lloyd, an agronomist, and the 360 Yield Center have been studying nitrogen usage in corn plants to develop better application strategies. 

Modern hybrids utilize nitrogen later in their growth cycles, meaning that a V10 corn plant requires about three-quarters of its total nitrogen requirement by mid-season. To ensure this, it's essential to monitor nitrate levels in the soil throughout the growing season. Traditionally, this process has been slow and expensive. However, the 360 Soil Scan from 360 Yield Centre offers a solution by providing nitrate readings and nitrogen forecasts within minutes, allowing farmers to make timely and informed decisions. 

The 360 Soil Scan machine connects wirelessly to an iPad and comes with a user-friendly app that guides farmers through the testing process and helps interpret the results. Additionally, the app includes a nitrogen needs calculator that estimates the amount of nitrogen required to reach a specified yield goal based on factors such as crop stage and soil organic matter. 

Sampling soil from representative locations within the field is crucial for accurate nitrate level assessment. The Yield Patrol app assists in tracking sample locations and ensures consistency in sampling methods. Proper sample collection, including depth and location considerations, is essential for obtaining reliable data. For banded nitrogen applications, care must be taken to avoid sampling from the concentrated zone. 

The 360 Soil Scan tool offers farmers a comprehensive solution for nitrogen management, helping them optimize nitrogen application practices, reduce input costs, and increase crop yields. With its user-friendly interface and real-time data insights, the tool empowers farmers to make informed decisions that maximize the potential of their corn crops. 

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