The Agronomists, Ep 21: Ray Dowbenko and Peter Johnson on N management


Losing nitrogen fertilizer is costly to the bottom line, and to our environment. Managing losses starts with identifying how N is lost, where it is most vulnerable to loss, and using the technology we have to minimize those losses.

For this episode of The Agronomists, host Lyndsey Smith is joined by Ray Dowbenko and Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson to talk about split-app N, N stabilizers, and managing N losses.

Catch a new episode of The Agronomists every Monday night at 8 pm E!


  • Props. And Ray appears to be in a tanning bed. Roast rabbit anyone?
  • 50 ways to lose your…N
  • What is the enormity of what we’re trying to prevent here? If the crop’s not growing, you’re looking at the opportunity for N loss. Financial costs to grower. Negative impacts on the bottom line, AND the environment.
  • In the U.K., urea might be banned because of the losses that can come off of urea.
  • No matter how small the losses are, they all snowball when they’re coming off of so many acres
  • Review the N cycle, please
  • Clip 1: Heavy Rains, Nutrient Losses and the Case for “Variable Source” Nitrogen with John Heard
  • A quick review of how we lose N…
  • Once urea hydrolyzes to ammonium, then converts into nitrate, it can leach or potentially go through denitrification. High ground vs low ground. Understand where the losses are!
  • Make sure the conditions are right for banding in anhydrous
  • Any time that the soil will stay wet for an extended period of time (high clay content, saturated soil) that’s when denitrification losses will occur
  • How important is that N inhibitor for volatilization losses if you’re applying to dry ground, and have very little expectation of enough rainfall? In particular, UAN where only 50 per cent is in the urea form? Mush on the surface is a baaaaaad thing
  • Know your soil type, know your risk
  • That N app on winter wheat right now? Pete says it’s too early on big wheat, and on small wheat it should already be on. Don’t support the small, too-numerous tillers.
  • Volatilization potential, lower when cooler
  • Soil temperature always matters. What would be the ideal temperature to surface apply 28 or 32 per cent, and what is a good rule for getting that surface applied product incorporated? If incorporated, as long as you do a good job, then the temperature won’t matter as much. If it’s on the surface, the lower the temperature, the better.
  • Using streamer bars to apply UAN to wheat, what amount of rain is needed to incorporate?
  • What would’ve been Clip 2 (and we’re going to throw it in here anyway): Wheat School: Protect seed and N losses with enhanced efficiency fertilizer
  • Clip 3: Corn School: Split Applying Nitrogen for Maximum Benefit
  • Ok. Which crop are we talking about here? Wheat or corn? Pete goes over both
  • What’s wrong with split nitrogen? Pete used the word dangit, but Ray would still like to unpack it.
  • In a dry situation on the prairies, put 60 to 70 per cent in the ground at seeding, says Ray. Then put the rest on in-season (if the rain is gonna come)
  • Is a split-app still advised for corn, if you use liquid starter on the planter and dry in the strip till at 6″ on sandy loam soils?
  • Ray, how much of your research was done in dry years, and what are your thoughts on water driven yield potential technology?
  • We have to measure to manage!
  • Post anthesis application: 10 gal /ac UAN plus 10 gal/ac of water as soon as anthesis is completed. Dissolved urea better since it burns less! (Editor’s note, agreed, there’s concern for burn) Do it at night, higher humidity, big droplets
  • You don’t get a lot of foliar uptake, so don’t target the leaves y’all (just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…)
  • If you want to harass, we mean, politely ask Ray some questions, we’ve got his contact info.
  • Same goes for Pete, but he’s easier to get a hold of: you can call him at 1-888-746-3311, send him a tweet (@wheatpete), or email him at [email protected].

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