Balancing improved nutrient use efficiency, increase return on investment from inputs, and protecting the environment from nutrient run-off has been the goal of First Farmers Coop of west-central Tennessee.
“Our objective is to let return on investment drive our customers’ nutrient management programs, as well as keep our farmers proactive where environmental stewardship is concerned,” says Alan Sparkman, agronomy marketing manager for Tennessee Farmers Coop who works closely with the agronomy staff at First Farmers Coop. “We don’t apply any more nitrogen and phosphorus than what is needed for crop uptake – we want to lower the farmer’s production costs but keep yields high.”
The Coop is doing an exemplary job too, says Verdesian Life Sciences, which is why they’re sharing their best practices with growers. First, all urea is pre-treated with NutriSphere-N® Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager, and 90 percent of its MAP and DAP with AVAIL® Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer. The two products are from Verdesian and are included in just about all fertilizer applications.
“We seem to get a synergistic effect when we bundle the NutriSphere-N and the AVAIL together,” says P.R. Morris, a staff agronomist. “We impregnate them on dry bulk fertilizer and feel like these products address yield-limiting factors at the front of the growing season. They increase our chances of getting the most nitrogen and phosphorus into the plants.”
Morris also says phosphorus can become tied up in the soil because of the positive and negative charge reaction between it and soil elements like calcium, magnesium, aluminum and iron. “Once the phosphorus binds to these elements, it becomes unavailable for plant uptake and may remain in that state for quite some time,” the agronomist explains. “Our soil tests often show high levels of phosphorus, yet tissue analysis will indicate phosphorus deficiency.”
In the case of nitrogen, which is usually applied in split applications at planting and then three to four weeks later when corn reaches the V-6 stage, up to 50 percent of this nutrient can be lost following application through volatilization, leaching and denitrification. “NutriSphere-N essentially provides protection of applied nitrogen against these environmental losses throughout the growing season,” Morris says. “This keeps more nitrogen available for plant uptake at the growth stages when corn needs it the most.”
Morris adds that most competing nitrogen managers only protect against volatilization, and for only a few weeks following application. NutriSphere-N, on the other hand, reduces volatilization of nitrogen, in addition to the leaching and denitrification that can lead to water quality issues and to nitrogen quickly moving out of the ammonium form that is best suited for plant uptake.
Jason Cherry is a corn and soybean grower from Milledgeville, Tennessee. He and his father-in-law and brother-in-law were early adopters of NutriSphere-N and AVAIL on their 4,000 acres. Since much of their ground is wet, bottom land they face the challenge of being highly prone to nitrogen loss. “Since I began using NutriSphere-N, I’ve been able to reduce my nitrogen rates by 5 to 10 percent,” Cherry says. “There’s no doubt in my mind that more of my applied nitrogen is going into the grain.”
AVAIL is also helping with the uptake of phosphorus. “The root masses are noticeably larger, and the corn and soybean growth is more vigorous,” Cherry says. “Because the phosphorus I apply is getting into the plant and not being tied up in the soil, I’ve been able to reduce my rates of phosphorus by up to 15 percent. Between some very nice yield increases and being able to reduce fertilizer rates, the return on investment for these products is very good.”