Corn School: Can Nitrogen Levels Play Catch-Up After A Cool Spring?

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What impact will a cool April have on nitrogen availability for Ontario’s corn crop? Will the hot late May weather speed up nitrogen release and help soil levels catch up?

On this episode of Corn School, Real Agriculture agronomist Peter Johnson is joined by OMAFRA Corn Lead Ben Rosser to tackle these questions. Rosser says farmers will likely get the answers to those questions when they start pre-sidedress nitrate testing (PSNT) during the second week of June. “Typically, if there’s lower soil nitrates at PSNT timing, recommendations would suggest more nitrogen in those cases,” says Rosser.

Soil nitrogen testing
Rosser says farmers will be able to assess nitrogen needs when they start pre-sidedress nitrate testing (PSNT) during the second week of June.

Johnson and Rosser also discuss nitrogen research planned for Ontario this summer. Johnson says doing nitrogen research has been compared to trying to “count a stampede of wild horses … after dark,” but Rosser is undeterred. For 2016, Rosser explains how the ministry will no longer be doing its traditional provincial nitrogen survey at PSNT timing.

This year, Rosser will be focusing on 20 sites and testing nitrates five times – from mid-May to the end of June – to gain a better understanding of nitrogen availability. “Instead of that single snapshot at PSNT timing we want to see how those nitrates increase over the course of the June timeframe.”

Rosser’s team will also be assessing the effectiveness of new “tailgate technology” that allows farmers to test nitrate levels at the field site rather than having to wait for traditional lab analysis.

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