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Nitrogen Stabilization: Trench Warfare

Nitrogen Stabilization: Trench Warfare
Oct 06, 2022
By Denise Faguy
Assistant Editor, North American Content,

Tips for beating fertilizer loss and reducing costs

Ontario Agronomist Peter Johnson and Tim Laatsch, Director of Agronomic Services, North America for Koch Agronomic Services gave the presentation Nitrogen Stabilization: Trench Warfare during the recent 2022 Great Ontario Yield Tour in Chesterville, Ontario. In addition to working for Koch, Laatch has farmed for the last 25 years in Southern Illinois.

They began their presentation by explaining that nitrogen is currently in the news a great deal.  Laatch and Johnson believe farmers can do a better job when working with nitrogen fertilizer, particularly when it comes to minimizing fertilizer loss.

“Rainfall is actually the very best way to incorporate either UREA or UAN, but the name of the game is having adequate water. You must have enough rainfall to actually solubilize to drive it down into the soil profile so that the urea breaks down,” explained Laatch.

There had been very little moisture on the plot where the demonstration was being held. Johnson explained that it is hard to measure, but important to try to measure the relative loss between fertilizer treatments.

Existing field research under these worst-case scenarios of not enough moisture is that farmers can lose about 30 to 40% of their applied nitrogen to ammonia loss when there is not enough moisture.

“If we put on 105 pounds, that means we're losing 35 to 40 pounds potentially out of this application,” explained Laatch. “With nitrogen prices the way they are today, that's a pretty significant economic hit.”

It is important for farmers to find ways to prevent that loss from happening. And, according to Laatch and Johnson the loss happens within a matter of a few days after application. The biggest window of risk is in that first three-day window.

“Even if farmers are using manure, the first day is really quite critical,” Johnson emphasized.

In addition to ensuring adequate moisture, what other things can a farmer do to minimize nitrogen loss? Stabilizers is one answer. Stabilizers are a very broad and general term.

Laatch and Johnson discussed several other factors to consider, including potential avenues of loss when farmers are planning the next crop season.

Watch the full 2022 Great Ontario Yield Tour presentation on Nitrogen Stabilization: Trench Warfare.

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