Corn School: Managing nitrogen in cool soils

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Ontario’s cool spring is having a huge impact on the soil release of nitrogen.

RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson says he’s seen the impact on the wheat crop already, and growers will have to keep a sharp eye on nitrogen soil tests to ensure they’re meeting the needs of the growing corn crop.

In this Corn School episode, Johnson notes that soil test labs in the province are reporting essentially no soil nitrogen release during April and May; it’s just been to0 cold for those soil bugs to get to work and break down organic matter. “They need heat,” he adds.

Johnson says it’s important for growers to remember that soil nitrogen release doesn’t play catch-up — if things do heat up we still won’t see high enough release rates to make up for the deficit: “The bottom line is we are short nitrogen.” (Story continues after the video.)

What should corn growers do? Johnson says it’s important to take a good look at the OMAFRA corn nitrogen survey results — pre-sidedress soil nitrate (PSNT) tests — which are expected to be released in the next week. Growers should also pull their own samples.

OMAFRA’s corn nitrogen calculator is a great resource for assessing your field needs, says Johnson. “It’s one of those years where we will have to keep the inputs up if we actually expect the crop to perform. We’re seeing that in the wheat crop and we are absolutely going to see that in the corn crop.”

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