If you didn’t apply anhydrous ammonia last fall, you might be getting anxious now in early spring. That’s understandable after a previous spring when wet, cold conditions not only prevented preplant anhydrous applications but also delayed planting well beyond the ideal time across most of the Corn Belt.
As we learned from last year — and nearly every spring prior for that matter — weather has always been the biggest unknown. Wet soil conditions tempt farmers to apply N in less-than-ideal conditions. Entering fields in wet conditions increases soil compaction and ultimately affects crop emergence and eventually yield. Additionally, there’s a greater risk of nitrogen leaching as the frequency of extreme rain events is higher during spring and early summer months. Using a nitrification inhibitor such as N-Serve® nitrogen stabilizer for anhydrous ammonia applications or Instinct® nitrogen stabilizer for UAN, urea or liquid manure applications, is proven to impede the leaching and denitrification process, making more applied nitrogen available to the crop longer into the growing season.
Apply preplant anhydrous and plant wisely
A common concern for farmers is how soon corn can be planted following a spring application of anhydrous ammonia to avoid injury. Like much about farming, there’s no standard answer. Crop injury can be avoided, or at the very least minimized, by applying anhydrous at least 7 inches deep and at a slight angle to the row. It’s important to achieve a good seal of the injection track to avoid ammonia placed in or movement into the corn root zone.
Movement from the initial injection site is more likely to occur in coarse, dry or cloddy soils. If injection sites aren’t sealing properly, install wing sealers directly above the outlet port on the injection system to help close the injection track, limit the size of the retention zone and reduce vertical movement of ammonia.
Lowering the N rate is proven to minimize risk of injury. Splitting application timings between preplant and sidedress is an effective way to lower preplant anhydrous rates while giving the corn crop more continuous fertilizer feeding throughout the growing season.
Lastly, it’s important to not get in a hurry when applying anhydrous, regardless of your perceived time crunch. Excessive speed during application can make knives ride up in the soil and reduce depth of the injection zone. What’s worse is that getting in a hurry often leads to accidents. Slow down, apply right and protect yourself.
Missed preplant application? Don’t panic.
Although, in most cases, preplant applications of anhydrous ammonia are preferred, you still have options if impediments cause fertilizer application delays and planting takes precedence. Be prepared with a Plan B, especially if conditions unpredictably would turn cool and wet. The plan should include alternate fertilizers such as UAN or urea. Sidedress and top-dress applications after crop emergence prove beneficial in maximizing yield by supplying a more continuous supply of nutrients when the corn crop needs it most.