Agronomy Geeks West — Ep. 17: Who Wants a 50 lb/acre N Credit?


Here’s a fun question: what nitrogen recommendations do you follow? Do you vary it by crop type or by field, ie. do you have a “canola blend”? Do you use tried-and-true removal rates compared against a current soil sample analysis? Or do you work backwards from a target yield?

No matter which way you currently choose nitrogen application rates, chances are you’d rather get more crop with less applied N — that stuff’s expensive, after all. For farmers who have zero-tilled for more than six years, new research suggests they can do just that, to the tune of 50 pounds an acre on a wheat or corn crop.

Dr. David Franzen, extension soil specialist with the North Dakota State University, has launched both a corn and wheat nitrogen application calculator that — for the first time ever — includes a tillage-practices component that credits the grower with about 50 pounds of N per acre, per year, if they’ve been a no-tiller for more than five years.

The nitrogen calculators (click here for wheat and here for corn) take several factors in to consideration before tallying up a recommended application rate, Franzen says, from soil type, to soil test analysis, and on to soil productivity. But Franzen also has the data to support the no-till number, which he found to be consistently in the 50 pounds an acre range.

In this Agronomy Geeks podcast, Real Agriculture’s editor, Lyndsey Smith, asks Franzen what’s at play here, how zero-till benefits accumulate and why zero-till is still a tough sell in the Red River Valley.

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