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PFR Report: Nitrogen Systems Harvest Update

Published on Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Nitrogen management is always a moving target. Rate, timing, source, and placement dictate yield when it comes to nitrogen management. Mother Nature has just as much influence on nitrogen management, if not more, compared to the previously mentioned factors. There are seasons where the environment really tests a nitrogen program. Through our Practical Farm Research (PFR)® program, nitrogen testing is one of the topics that are typically on the front of our minds. The PFR nitrogen trials have evolved over the past several years as new products and techniques have come to market.

One of the most notable evolutions in our nitrogen testing is through the 2x2x2 nitrogen application systems. Three systems have been tested: Martin-Till Dual UMO, Conceal from Precision Planting®, and Yetter Farm Equipment’s Dual 2968 Series. These systems have given the farmer the ability to split nitrogen to both sides of the row during the planting pass. By doing this, the nitrogen solution can be accessed more evenly throughout the plant’s root zone. When comparing 30 units 2x2 vs. 2x2x2, the 2x2 treatment shows the roots growing towards the nitrogen application point. The 2x2x2 roots demonstrate a much more uniform root structure.

Another part of nitrogen application that the 2x2x2 systems have facilitated is the ability to safely increase nitrogen rate at planting time. There are years where higher up-front nitrogen rates are more successful. The data below shows how these systems compare to a standard 2x2 system. Total nitrogen in this trial is 190 units, and sidedress rates vary depending on the rate up-front. Take a look at the data below.

These systems have allowed us to evolve our nitrogen system trial as well. For the 2020 growing season, we introduced a new study called the Nitrogen Systems study. This study aimed to evaluate various methods of nitrogen timing, source, and application and their effect on yield. 

I created a video on my pre-harvest observations at our Central Illinois PFR site in El Paso, IL. Click here to watch it now. In this video, I discussed how I anticipated that the higher nitrogen rate applied at planting or pre-plant would be the yield leader when we harvested. Below is the data from the CIL PFR site.

Upon harvest, I learned my anticipations were mostly correct. Our research has proven that a split application of nitrogen does provide the most significant return on investment. However, for the 2020 growing season, when the nitrogen was applied at higher rates early, yield improved. I believe this was because we endured a drought right before, through, and following the sidedress season. This is why the environment favored early-season nitrogen. For example, the 100% NH3 treatment provided the highest ROI and yield. The 60 unit 2x2x2 treatment also performed very well because of the high early rate and 2x2x2 efficiency. In Central Illinois, anhydrous ammonia is used regularly as a nitrogen source, and it proved to do well in this data set and across the farm. Because of this, we will continue testing it in different trials in the future. 

For the London, Ohio, and Henderson, Kentucky, PFR sites, their environments and weather patterns were much different. In their Nitrogen Systems trial, the data favored the 2x2x2 applied nitrogen over the other treatments.

The Ohio data seemed to favor our PFR standard treatment of 30 units of UAN 2x2 + 160 units UAN @ V3. The 60 unit 2x2x2 treatment followed from there. I am happy to see these systems work when we compare them to other nitrogen system options. The 100% NH3 application did not work well for the environment/soil conditions present in 2020. This is not a very common practice in the immediate area surrounding the Ohio PFR site.

Finally, let’s dive into the KY PFR site data. This data set is competitive when it comes to the comparisons. The three positive treatments vary little at all. These three treatments average $13.25 above the 190 unit UAN @ V3 control. The NH3 treatments did not perform the strongest at the Kentucky site in 2020.

Overall, all data from these three PFR sites support that a split applied nitrogen program can be very profitable and limit risk. This study will evolve for the 2021 growing season and will include more timings and nitrogen applications. Below are the costs that were utilized for the data calculations.

Corn Price per Bushel = $3.72
UAN per Unit = $0.44
NH3 per Unit = $0.32
Sidedress UAN Application per Acre = $12.5
NH3 Application per Acre = $13.00
Planting Applying UAN per Acre = $23.4
Planting Without Applying UAN per Acre = $20.7
Spraying UAN per Acre = $6.55


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Author: Clayton Stufflebeam

Categories: PFR, PFR Reports


Clayton Stufflebeam

Clayton Stufflebeam

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