Author: TJ Warkentin

The fall of 2016 was one that will remain in our minds for a long time. The rains persisted, delaying harvest till late fall (or early winter) in many geographies.  Getting the crop off seemed like a never-ending battle for many producers.  For the most part, that crop was worth the struggle as yields were average to above average.  However, the late harvest caused fall fertility applications to be minimal.  If upcoming conditions for spring remain very wet, fertility plans may have to be adjusted.  What are your plans to meet the challenges to providing your crop with a strong fertility plan in 2017?  Here are some of our concerns and suggestions to deal with nitrogen applications for the upcoming year.

Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is a popular source of nitrogen in a number of regions.  The large question that looms for upcoming season is supply.  Will there be enough tanks and trucks in the area to keep the anhydrous units filled and moving?  This conversation has taken place with many customers who currently use this source. The discussion then turns to other sources of nitrogen and the options and placement that could be used to help with nutrient movement.

Urea could be a convenient nitrogen source at seeding time.  Application options range from broadcasting, broadcasting followed by incorporating, and banding.  There are a few different options when dealing with urea but we must look at the agronomics surrounding its use and consider potential risk of losses.

The gold standard for any nitrogen source is banding as it minimizes losses and allows the quick access of nutrients.  Given the environmental challenges that may face us in the spring of 2017, the opportunity to band all your nitrogen may not be viable.  It is imperative to understand that broadcasting urea could cause a large percentage of volatilization losses.  Volatilization occurs when urea is applied on or near the soil surface and comes into contact with moisture to produce carbon dioxide and ammonia which gases off into the atmosphere.

Conditions favoring high volatilization potential are:

  • high soil temperatures
  • moist conditions, followed by rapid drying
  • windy conditions
  • high soil pH (>pH 7.5)
  • coarse soil texture (sandy)
  • low organic matter content
  • high amounts of surface residue (e.g. Zero tillage)

If broadcasting is the only option for urea placement this spring producers should to look at some inhibitor options below to curtail the amount of nitrogen that could potentially be lost.

UAN (Urea and Ammonium Nitrate) is a flexible source of nitrogen that can be banded “conventionally” as a deep, side or midrow band, or applied with a sprayer. If product is not going to be deep banded, we need to be prepared to apply a urease inhibitor (see below) to deduce the risk of volatilization.  If applying UAN with a sprayer, loss risks are two-fold: volatilization and immobilization. Applying in a slight drizzle is ideal but hard to time.  Using a urease inhibitor as well as dribble band nozzles will help minimize losses.  This product also fits perfectly if you are targeting high end yields while preventing lodging and the front loading all your product in a challenging spring.

There are a lot of factors that could come into play if conditions are not favorable for broadcast urea or UAN.  There are other options or additives that can enhance efficiency of nitrogen to potentially reduce losses.

Agrotain is a urease inhibitor that delays breakdown of the urea molecule into ammonia form. It will buy you time to allow urea to move into the soil.  Agrotain has been used for many years and has proven to help reduce nitrogen losses.  It can be used with both Urea and UAN.

Super U is a urease inhibitor combined with a nitrification inhibitor.   A nitrification inhibitor delays the conversion of ammonia form nitrogen to the nitrate form which is vulnerable to leaching and denitrification.  It is similar to Agrotain as it will buy you time to allow urea to move into the soil as well as reduce denitrification and leaching when conditions are wet.  Super U is a relatively new product but both inhibitors have demonstrated to provide protection against losses.

ESN (Environmentally Smart Nitrogen) is slow release urea in a polymer coating.  The polymer coating degrades slowly to allow a controlled release of nitrogen.  ESN may serve as an insurance against adverse conditions as well as help feed the plant at a later period of growth.

When weather conditions are perfect and application timing and placement are ideal, these nitrogen enhancers will provide no yield advantage over normal nitrogen sources.  We may be facing a spring that is neither ideal or normal so looking into these products is a good option.  As previously stated, the ultimate placement is banding the nitrogen.  If this is not an option for you, take precautions to minimize your losses and help the crop reach its potential.

Don’t hesitate to give one of our agronomists a call to discuss your fertility strategy for Spring 2017.

Soybean Fertility

06 May 2015

There is a theory out there that you don’t have to fertilize soybeans.  This is somewhat true as you can put the seed in the ground with some inoculant (liquid, granular, double; that is another blog for another time) and come away with decent yields.  Soybeans have a taproot that will extend downward into the soil profile as well as many lateral roots that accumulate in the upper soil profile.  As the growing season goes on, soybeans create many secondary roots and branch out searching for nutrients and/or moisture.  The soybean root structure is a very good scavenger and will go find what it needs.

Why do I need to fertilize soybeans?

Uptake: 1 lb P/bushel    3.5 lbs K/bushel

Removal: 0.86 lbs P/bushel    1.43lbs K/bushel

A 40 bu/ac soybean crop will remove 34.4 lbs/ac of phosphorus and 57.2 lbs/ac of potassium.  That is a lot of nutrients being removed with the seed.  We all know how hard and expensive it is to build soil phosphorus and soil potassium levels.  On average, our soil phosphorus levels are slowly being depleted with big canola and wheat crops.  With soybeans becoming an important part of our cropping rotation, it is important to try and maintain nutrient levels in the soil.

How do I Apply P and K?

There are still a lot of questions to be answered about where to put the fertilizer with soybeans as it is a relatively new crop to our area.  The Manitoba Soil Fertility Guide only allows a maximum of 20 lbs/ac P seed placed depending on your row spacing.  There has been a lot of research in the past couple years that suggests we could slightly bump up seed placed phosphorus in soybeans as it does not hurt plant stands or yields.  However, research also shows that there was little to no yield change from band to broadcast phosphorus.  The best advice is to do what is convenient on your farm.  If you feel the need to have some seed placed phosphorus, don’t go any higher than 20 lbs/ac P with the seed (remember it depends on your row spacing).  Banding in fertilizer is still the best practice but if broadcasting works for you then do it.  Like I said before, soybeans are good scavengers and will go and find what they need.  The main thing to remember is to replace what is lost and maintain the nutrients in the soil.  Soybeans take away a lot from the soil which can become a problem for fertility in the future.

Manure Management

31 Jan 2015

It is late fall, harvest is complete and fall work is nearly done.  It is time to haul manure and get ready for your cattle herd to come home.  Where are you putting that manure?  On the same, most convenient field where manure has been applied for 5+ years?  Do you know how much N, P and K are potentially in that manure and in that field?  We all understand the 4R stewardship practices including Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place.  A manure management plan is no different than using commercial fertilizer.  Let’s take a look at the 4R’s and how they apply to a solid manure management plan.

Right Source

Manure is a rich source of nutrients with N, P and K the most abundant.  Obviously the nutrient analysis will vary with the type of livestock operation, and forms of feed and bedding utilized.  The best way to find out your nutrient analysis of the manure is to send in samples.  360° Ag Consulting can obtain a proper representative sample for you to get precise results of nutrient component from the lab.

 Right Rate

The right rate of manure application depends on many factors.  You need:

  • crop plan and target yield to figure out uptake and removal of N and P
  • soil sample 0-6 inches and 6-24 inches
  • manure nutrient analysis
  • agriculture capability class and subclass
  • setbacks on fields – streams, rivers, drains, lakes, side slopes
  • animal units (A.U.) of your livestock production
  • manure storage systems and application systems

360° Ag Consulting will consider all factors and determine a proper fertilizer rate.

Right Time

The best time to apply manure is in the spring as close to crop uptake as possible.  Injection or broadcast and immediate incorporation will limit volatilization of ammonium N and loss of nutrients.

Right Place

Placement in manure management is vital to limiting nutrient losses.  In ground placement is the best scenario.  If broadcasting manure, limiting the days between broadcasting and incorporation is key.


Livestock manure is a valuable resource.  By using manure correctly as a fertilizer it can:

  • increase crop productivity and crop yield
  • provide N throughout the season (mineralization of organic N in manure)
  • increase microbial activity
  • increase organic matter

360° Ag Consulting believes in proper agronomic practices to help ensure the sustainable use of manure on your farm.  Proper manure management will maximize crop utilization and production while minimizing impacts on soil, water and air resources.