If you could eve make a case f0or sidedressing corn being a money-saver, it ought to be this year. Many agronomists have sung its praises for years, and while many farmers practice it, many don’t. Some are just too concerned that they may get caught with a rainy period and not be able to get the N on in time. Others just like to take advantage of good working conditions if they occur in the late fall, depending upon where they live, and spring to get part of the field work out of the way.
Most agronomists assign a 5 to 10% efficiency increase to sidedressing vs. pre-plant incorporated applications, and perhaps an even higher advantage vs. fall applications, even if N-Serve was applied with the anhydrous ammonia. That’s significant at 20 cent per pound N. At 50 cent per pound N and typical application rates, a 10% decrease in application rate because pl ants will be able to use the N when they need it, or 10% better performance if the same rate is applied as would have been applied pre-plant, becomes extremely important. If you typically apply 165 pounds per acre after soybeans, a 10% savings because you choose to sidedress could mean about $7.50-$8.00 less spent per acre on nitrogen. Over 1,000 acres, that’s $7,500 to $8,000.
Dave Nanda, agronomist for Corn Illustrated projects sponsored by Farm Progress Companies, is a believer in sidedress nitrogen applications. However, he also likes to see enough N applied early toget corn through the early stages. Then when the bulk of it goes on at sidedressing time, you get the most effective use of each dollar invested in N, he notes.
At Nanda’s recommendations, one of the studies in this year’s line-up of Corn Illustrated plots will feature pre-sidedress N vs. Sidedress N in 30 inch rows following seed corn under irrigation. To make the comparisons fair, the rate that would be recommended for the pre-sidedress application will be applied on both treatments. Likely, it will be around 180 pounds per acre. It’s somewhat higher than Mengel believes is necessary for good yields on the test plot soil, but remember this is corn following corn.
If early-season weather turns wet and causes N losses in the pre-sidedress plots, then Nanda looks for better yields form the same rate applied sidedress. He’s confident that sidedressing is the most effective way to apply nitrogen in most situations. The trick, he acknowledges, is to be geared up and ready to go once corn is up and tall enough to avoid covering it with soil peeling out from anhydrous knives.
This will be just one of the farm-size plot trials planned for this season. Stay up to date on all the Corn Illustrated planning, plus more information on last year’s results, in upcoming issues of the Corn Illustrated report.