Optimal Nitrogen Utilization Boosts ROI and Yields

The correlation between higher nitrogen rates and great yield results doesn't tell the whole story when it comes to the profitability of your corn crop. Nitrogen utilization also plays a big role in net revenue and should be a key metric when evaluating your ROI and planning for next year.

Nitrogen research conducted through the FS MiField™ Applied Research program in 2016 assessed nitrogen rates, nitrogen utilization and yield based on varying rates of spring-applied anhydrous ammonia. Research methodology included:

  • Multiple replications in a block design;

  • Corn planted on soybean stubble;

  • Pre-plant applications of either 0, 50, 100 or 150 pounds of N/acre (except control); and

  • A base urea top-dress application of 46 pounds of N/acre (including control).

Click here to view MiField Applied Research Trials 

As expected, the more N applied resulted in higher yields. However, the key finding is revealed when evaluating N utilization as part of this analysis (N/bu). The pre-plant application of 50 pounds/acre achieved nearly the same net revenue as the 150 pounds.

"This suggests that, in the 2016 environment, you could have reduced your N investment and still achieved an optimal ROI," said Brendan Bachman who serves the FS System as the Applied Research Marketing Manager at GROWMARK. "Although we were able to achieve yields of 177.2 bushel with no pre-plant N application, the control was the least profitable demonstrating the high correlation of yield to profitability."

"Overall good yield numbers were expected. However, the rate of return on nitrogen stood out due to high rate of mineralization in 2016," said Bachman. "The research showed that high application rates of nitrogen do not always equate to higher profitability. There must be a balance between applied nitrogen rate and attainable yield goals. However, the better utilization of plant-available nitrogen is what typically nets optimal ROI."

Bachman also said the results underscore the ability of farmers to earn high profits with the 4Rs. "The right source, rate, time and place help farmers maximize crop uptake and minimize nutrient loss," he said. "Farmers can use this research to determine the right balance between their nitrogen investment and most profitable yield."

FS MiField Applied Research provides growers with insights, based on both individual trial data from their farm and/or the program's aggregated data, to help guide their decisions with the goal of optimal ROI. Bachman said the aggregated data may not fully explain the complexity of the environmental conditions a grower may face. However, he said, the consistent research protocols reveal data trends that can help FS customers understand the variables that affect profitability. In fact, FS member cooperatives conducted over 70 nitrogen trials during the first year of the FS MiField Applied Research program.

"As we conduct more trials and add them to the database, our understanding of N utilization will continue to grow, taking some of the complexities out of the equation," Bachman noted.

"Our research program is an example of an exciting new way we can help our customers prepare for what's next. We identify trends of sustainable agronomic practices that our FS customers can use on their farm," continued Bachman.

Check out the FS MiField Applied Research Trials to view data results for your area. Or contact your local FS Crop Specialist for more on the FS MiField Applied Research program like the nitrogen field trials.

"Our crop specialists can explain the fundamentals of these research trials. They can also help you incorporate them into your farm to gain insight into making more profitable decisions." said Bachman.