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Spring Nitrogen Management Options for Small Grains

Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

A few questions arose over the winter as to options for spring applied nitrogen for small grains in areas where fall application was not possible. One option that was questioned was increasing application rates with the air seeder.  While this does present increased risk, with spring approaching I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some resources available for helping make decisions on what to apply. Application with the air seeder allows for more options due to a wide range of seedbed utilized with the various seed spread patters available.

Nitrogen, and specifically urea, can cause significant reduction in emergence if applied at high rates.  The risk for damage increases as the amount of seedbed which the fertilizer and seed are distributed decreases, the amount of sand increases, or the amount of moisture in the soil decreases.  While there is never a time where seed placed fertilizer poses no risk, by taking into account these factors rates can be adjusted.

The fertilizer guidelines for wheat and barley were recently updated for the state of Minnesota.  Included in these guidelines were maximum fertilizer rates suggested for small grains.  This data originated information summarized from a publication out of NDSU.

Fertilizer Application with Small Grain Seed at Planting.

While publications like these may give a general idea of application rate they may not be fool proof and should not replace sound judgment.  When applying N with the air seeder or drill that all N should be accounted for.  This includes N in MAP, DAP, AMS, or Microessentials.  It is also important to remember that most suggested rates are based on situations where soil moisture is adequate.  It may be necessary to reduce rates by at least half or more if soils are dry at planting.  In addition, if potash (KCl) is included the risk for damage may be greater.  Remember that all fertilizers contain salts, but vary in their risk for seed placement.  Keeping this in mind there are some options out there to but always be up to date on current information to make an informed decision.

Fertilizing Wheat in Minnesota

Fertilizing Barley in Minnesota

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