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Getting efficient with nitrogen fertilizer

Fri, Feb 18th, 2011
Posted in Agriculture

Extension Notes

By Jerrold Tesmer, Extension Educator for Fillmore/Houston counties

Fertilizer cost has gone from the fifth highest expense to the highest expense in the last five years! Based on the Wisconsin "PEPS" Program for corn silage, fertilizer costs used to follow equipment, harvest, land, and seed costs as recently as 2006. So, where can you save some money?

In the case of nitrogen fertilizer, the universities in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan have created a multi-state, regional approach to N guidelines for corn. This is based on the maximum return to nitrogen (MTRN). It is a flexible rate based on economics using the cost of nitrogen and the price of corn. A Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator is available for all these states at http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/soilfertility/nrate.aspx

I've found it real interesting to play the "what if" game. "What if the price of corn goes way beyond $7.00?" How might that change your nitrogen rate? Living only one mile from Iowa, I also look at how Iowa recommendations differ from Minnesota.

In a corn-on-corn situation with $.50/lb. N and $4.50 price of corn, the Minnesota MRTN would be 148 lb. N/acre. Increase the price to $7.00 and the MRTN increases to 154 lb. N/acre. If the price of corn goes to $10.00, the MRTN increases to 159 lb. N/acre. And if you move across the border into Iowa the MRTN increases to 190 lb. N/acre.

The chart from the Nitrogen Rate Calculator will also give you a nitrogen fertilizer range that should be within $1.00 of the MRTN. For example, the Minnesota $7.00 corn at $.50 /lb. N has an acceptable range of 147 - 162 lbs. /acre.

If you do not have computer access and would like to try some nitrogen/price scenarios using your fertilizer price and expected corn market price, contact me at the Fillmore County Extension Office 507-765-3896 or the Houston County Extension Office 507-725-5807 and I'll run them for you.

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