• Agriculture Technology
  • Dec 13, 2018

Nitrogen Management: 3 Key Takeaways From the 2018 Season

Two men in field inspecting soil
If I had to summarize the 2018 growing season in the Midwest, one word comes to mind: wet. In my area, we saw almost 60 inches of rain from planting to harvest, which is double the average that we’d normally get in Iowa. As you can imagine, keeping nitrogen in the root zone was a challenge. Here are 3 key takeaways to keep in mind as you plan your nitrogen strategy for 2019.
Takeaway #1: Split nitrogen applications made a big impact.
It was apparent at harvest which fields received split-applied nitrogen applications because they had more favorable looking crops and yields. There’s mounting research from our Answer Plot® program and on-farm trials that shows a yield advantage when nitrogen is applied throughout the season.
If you’re not split-applying nitrogen, talk to your agronomic advisor about adjusting your management plan. Regardless of conditions during the season, having nitrogen available when plants need it most will help boost yield potential.
Takeaway #2: Technology tools proved their value.
Nobody can predict what stresses a plant will face each season. Ag technology tools, including the R7® Field Monitoring Tool and the R7 Field Forecasting Tool (FFT), provide a real-time report about field conditions and crop health status, and can alert you when in-season action might be needed.
For example, as the FFT updated based on excessive rainfall this season, it became clear that farmers needed more in-season nitrogen to supplement what had run off or leached. Instead of applying a predetermined amount of nitrogen up-front, the tool allowed farmers to narrow in on the correct amount to apply based on field conditions and crop needs. Those who kept a watchful eye on the tool and their fields benefitted at harvest.
Takeaway #3: Tissue sampling can help establish yield expectations.
As we saw this year, nitrogen availability varied widely in fields depending on rainfall, application strategy and soil type, which resulted in variable yield impacts. In-season tissue sampling helped farmers understand how well their crops took up soil nutrients and where crops lacked nitrogen. With that information, farmers were able to re-establish yield goals.
Work with your advisor to tissue sample crops throughout the entire growing season to keep a pulse on plant health. Tissue sampling data for your fields can also be updated in the FFT to predict how yield potential could be impacted by a crop’s nutrient status.
Use these key learnings to help guide your nitrogen management strategy for next year. Your local WinField United retailer can help you implement ag technology tools for better in-season monitoring.