There's a Lot of Nitrate Still in the Soil

Prairie Gleanings

Question is will it still be there next spring. Illinois CBMP will pay for nitrate testing to answer that question on your farm.

Published on: October 5, 2012

After speaking with several nutrient experts, one thing is clear – there’s a lot of nitrogen left in the field after this drought year.

Here’s the catch, most of it’s in the nitrate form. As most know, that means it’s extremely susceptible to loss via leaching (moving out with the water) and denitrification (evaporating from water-logged soils).

Dan Schaefer, director of nutrient stewardship with the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, has been pulling soil samples the past few days. He’s found anywhere from 60 to 100 lbs of N still in the soil.

Schaefer’s in Champaign County. While they’ve received quite a bit of rain recently, he says the tile drains are still dry. However, once they start running, you can pretty much say goodbye to that excess nitrogen. The big question is will there be enough left over next year to reduce N rates.

Well, the Illinois CBMP is working in conjunction with the University of Illinois to help growers make an informed decision this spring. CBMP will foot the bill for nitrate tests (both this fall and next spring), provided the farmer works with his/her local ag retailer or crop advisor to pull the samples. Schaefer notes they’re pulling samples from two different depths: 0-12 inches and 12-24 inches.

Also, the initiative is targeting fields that were corn this year and are going back to corn next year. Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, says the goal is to sample between 75 and 100 fields over this nitrogen application season.

For more on the initiative, check out CBMP’s Keep it for the Crop program’s website. Growers must request sampling materials from U of I’s Emerson Nafziger by Oct. 15 – that’s a week from Tuesday. Free is a pretty good price for a nitrate test. Plus, it could save you some nitrogen next spring.