The wettest first quarter of the year since 2008 is causing many farmers to make a choice between planting corn and applying nitrogen fertilizer. However, for Peter Scharf the answer is simple
The University of Missouri Extension agronomist says that once the rains stop, planting corn first is the best option. "Almost all of the time, the right decision is to plant," he says. "Delaying planting is more likely to hurt yields than delaying nitrogen application." Scharf says that actually delaying nitrogen application will actually help in some years.
He cites research from 2008-2010 that were similar to wet springs like the one we are now experiencing. Over those three years, corn receiving nitrogen fertilizer when it was knee-high out-yielded corn receiving all nitrogen fertilizer at planting by an average of 60 bushels per acre each year. "This is because the nitrogen applied at planting was lost due to wet weather and was not there when the crop needed it in June and July."
A change in machinery may be required
Delayed nitrogen application may mean changing machinery. Some producers may have planned to use nitrogen-application equipment before planting corn. However, applying nitrogen once the corn is in the ground and up will require machinery that works in a standing crop. Scharf encourages producers to be flexible about how they get their nitrogen applied. He notes that a number of fertilizer dealers have recently purchased or leased high-clearance applicators, and many have side-dress units available. "This creates options in addition to equipment that the producer actually owns."
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