Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
A little-and-often approach could improve nitrogen use efficiency this spring – rather than applying lots at once to get crops growing. Focus on applications to get best from nitrogen

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

A little-and-often approach could improve nitrogen use efficiency this spring – rather than applying lots at once to get crops growing.

Too much nitrogen too soon can swamp small or slowly growing plants with poorly developed root systems, suggests Ross Leadbeater of CF Fertilisers. Instead, four or five applications can be better than the traditional three-way split.

“The key is to make sure whatever 

N you do apply is taken up quickly by plants and is not left in the system unused or at the mercy of the weather”, says Mr Leadbeater. This probably means growers turning to more frequent but lower level applications than they might be used to.”

Application timing can also be used to manage the canopy. “In slow growing years, early Nitrogen can be used to build tiller numbers and in forward crops later applications can help thin crops out.”

Optimum amount

An optimum to aim for is around 1000-1200 tillers/m2 with a view to build around 500-600 ears/m2. For more forward crops with 2000 tillers/m2 delaying the first application will be beneficial to starve some of this growth off.

“When it comes to the final solid nitrogen application for milling wheat, this ideally should take place just before growth stage 35-39 to encourage optimum protein building.

“Solid AN will always be more efficient than straight urea for late 

applications but care also needs taking if you use liquid N, not just because of the risk of scorch but also due to potential problems with crop acceptance. 

“Late season foliar N applications using urea applied at the milky ripe grain growth stage 73-75 don’t always produce functional protein.

“The grain may appear to contain enough protein N, but it won’t contain the functional proteins required and in some cases millers will not take wheat if it has had a late foliar urea application.”

Other nutrients

Adequate levels of phosphate and potash are essential to avoid growth checks and soil indices of around 2 need to be maintained to ensure optimum Nitrogen utilisation, suggests Mr Leadbeater.

“Without this, the plant will not be able to use the nitrogen efficiently and both yield and quality are likely to suffer if these nutrients aren’t in balance. Most wheat crops destined for premium markets are also likely to require additional sulphur.”

“Ideally, applications should be made at the start of March at growth stage 14-25 with the best way of getting both early N and S on to the crop being a true granular NS compound such as DoubleTop (27N + 30SO3) or SingleTop (27N + 12SO3).”