Wheat School: Protect seed and N losses with enhanced efficiency fertilizer


As a wheat grower, you know the importance of nitrogen to ensure you have a high yield, high protein quality wheat crop.

Enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) have been around for quite some time, and as we learn the best way to use them, they’re gaining in popularity with farmers.

Although there are different types of EEFs, recent research conducted into Environmentally Smart Nitrogen (ESN), a product by Nutrien, the only polymer-coated urea on the market to date, is offering some insight into the best use of this technology.

Brian Beres, senior agronomy specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, based at Lethbridge, Alta., joined Kara Oosterhuis in our latest Wheat School episode to talk about some of the research that has been done around ESN. One of the main questions producers often have when it comes to these types of fertilizers, is —  is it worth the cost? Can we justify it in terms of economic returns?

Beres says that if you are a producer that wants to put a lot of nitrogen down at seeding, and you are limited to it being in close proximity to the seed, then polymer-coated urea is a valid choice and worth the input cost. With ESN, you can put down three times the recommended rate of nitrogen with the seed for cereals. However, Beres has found that there are definite concerns about using the product if you aren’t taking the proper mitigative steps off the hop.

One of the steps that can be taken to ensure seed safety is to ensure if the fertilizer is going into a blender for offloading purposes, there aren’t any scaling deposits left in the blender, as it could result in breaking of the polymer coating.

Another imperative factor when considering the use of an EEF is, of course, environmental conditions. Beres recommends using products that protect against volatilization such as a urease inhibitor, or urease plus nitrification.

“They have a role to play in situations like that. And some of the work that we’ve done with winter wheat —  on top of it being a mitigation strategy around loss, you do see some utility and benefit with them when it comes sometimes in relation to protein, and protein yield, but certainly, they seem to pay for themselves in that situation.”

Beres adds if you are using regular urea that doesn’t provide any protection or a lack of a stabilizer, the cereal crop can suffer significant losses either in the seed row, or by being short N later in the season (due to losses).

Check out the full Wheat School episode, below:

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Wheat School (view all)Season 11 (2020) Episode 22

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