N as a System

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Optimize Crop Use, Increase Harvest Yield, Underpin ROI

4R Principles of Nutrient Stewardship

Farmers can gain healthier plants and increase their odds for higher corn yields by maximizing crop utilization of nitrogen. And in times of fertilizer cost uncertainty, maximizing nitrogen utilization can shore up your ROI. The first step in creating an N management plan is to understand that once in the soil, nitrogen faces both significant physical and gaseous loss before being taken up by the plant. An effective nitrogen management program helps prevent those losses and provide the crop with optimal circumstances for nutrient uptake.  FS recommends a plan based on the 4R’s of nutrient management: right source, right rate, right place, right time.

“Growers who follow these four principles can increase the chance that nitrogen will be available to the crop during critical growth and yield development stages,” says Dr. David Powell, FS Senior Agronomy Services Manager. “The key to successfully managing your nitrogen is to treat it like a complete system.”

Powell explains that the goal of managing N as a system is to maximize plant uptake before the potential of nitrogen loss. Loss supplied through organic matter mineralization is usually through volatilization or denitrification in the air or through leaching, runoff and soil erosion. The 4R approach to nitrogen management minimizes these risks, leading to healthier plants and better overall environmental conditions.

2-Pass N Application with Nitrogen Stabilizers

Among the best management practices is to incorporate a 2-pass application program, splitting the total estimated N needed between each pass. The timing of each application is aligned to a key crop growth stage, when the plants are taking up and using nitrogen the most. Corn uses nitrogen in two N forms: ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3–). Temperature and rainfall are major influencers in the process of N volatilization and leaching. By adding a nitrogen stabilizer to each application, farmers can extend the availability of the preferred N forms by inhibiting the conversions. Incorporating the 2-pass method and nitrogen stabilizers into your N management plan optimizes the crop’s access to and use of N, as well as increasing yield and your ROI.

Return on Investment - 2 passes vs. 1 Pass 

The proven positive environmental impact of N as a System allows growers to focus on their ultimate goal of maximizing yield and ROI practicing 2-passes with split rates. MiField Applied Research trials that apply the 4Rs approach backs this up. In six consecutive years of 64 side-by-side trials, corn acres that received 2 passes yielded +7.1 bu/A over the acres that received 1 pass.


Interestingly, the yield impact over these 64 trials varied from +2 to +19.4 bu/A, demonstrating that weather is a critical component in nitrogen management. “Our research trials over the past few years clearly show that integrating sustainable practices through a nitrogen management plan is both practical and profitable,” Powell explained. “Nitrogen doesn’t have to be complicated. And by managing N as a System, we know how to simplify it for you.”

Contact your local FS Crop Specialist to help you develop a nitrogen management plan for your operation. Download the 2021 MiField Trial Report for more results on the yield and ROI benefits of N as a System.

Contact your FS Crop Specialist

Your FS Crop Specialist is here to help you with your nutrient management plans. 


MiField® Applied Research Trials

From crop health inputs to nutrient management to new methods, MiField can help you discover what best fits your operation with a test on your farm.

Download The Trials Report

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