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Sidedressing nitrogen for corn? Extension video up for national honor

sidedress liquid fertilizer applicator

Extension educator Brad Carlson gets a lot of questions from corn growers this time of year about sidedressing nitrogen fertilizer. Who will do the application and with what equipment? How much of your N should be applied as sidedress, and when during the growing season should you apply? Do you need to use a urease inhibitor? This year, he can point them to an award-winning video.

Carlson is a National Finalist and a North Central regional winner in the 2023 National Association County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Communications Awards competition in the category of Educational Video Recording. The video, Split-applying nitrogen for corn: 3 tips for sidedress applications, helps corn growers sift through the wide range of options available for sidedressing.

The National Winner will be announced on Tuesday, August 15th at the Communication/Poster Awards luncheon at the 2023 NACAA Annual Meeting / Professional Improve Conference (AM/PIC) in Des Moines, Iowa. 

The NACAA is a professional Extension organization comprised of county agricultural agent associations from nearly every U.S. state. The organization is geared toward Extension educators and other professionals who work in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and natural resources, 4-H youth development, community development, administration, aquaculture and Sea Grant, and related disciplines.

Learn more about Brad Carlson

Brad Carlson is an Extension educator in crops and water resources based out of the Mankato Regional Office.

1. What was your journey before you landed at Extension?

I grew up on a small farm in Waseca County; my dad taught high school auto mechanics, then owned his own repair shop on the farm as his primary livelihood. In the sixth grade while with my class attending “Waseca County Days” I heard a presentation by Roger Wilkowske, the county agent, discussing his job. It stuck in the back of my mind that that was a pretty interesting job, and something I might like to do someday. 
Extension educator Brad Carlson talks with farmer
Extension educator Brad Carlson, left, talks to a
Minnesota corn farmer during harvest.

I ended up at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where I majored in soil science. While in my sophomore year, I visited the U of M Southern Experiment Station (very near home), where I met Gyles Randall, and I was offered a summer job. As luck would have it, Gyles and my advisor, Ron Hensler, had been officemates while receiving their Ph.D.s at the University of Wisconsin. Their relationship manifested in my being offered a graduate assistantship after I received my bachelor’s degree. 

In graduate school I studied the interaction of potato plant canopies with precipitation and irrigation water and the resulting loss of N below the root zone. Toward the middle of my last summer of research someone cut out a job posting for the county Extension educator position in Rice County and put it on my desk. It was the job I always wanted, and only 20 miles from where I grew up! I was offered the position. I completed my graduate studies while on the job, receiving my master’s in soil science with a minor in agronomy. 

I stayed in Rice County and added Steele County to my responsibilities in 2005. I moved to a “regional” position officed out of Mankato in 2012. This fall will be my 29th anniversary in Extension.

2. How do you describe your Extension programming?

I focus on water quality issues related to agriculture, with a particular focus on nitrates. I work very closely with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association to be proactive on environmental issues. The program most people would be familiar with is Nitrogen Smart. This program has evolved over the years to include online training and several advanced courses. Nitrogen Smart is an example of what I consider to be a primary role for an Extension educator. That is to gather information from many sources, including basic science, and stitch it together into a comprehensive educational program.

3. What is something you’re working on that you’re particularly excited about?

Minnesota is set to rewrite its Nutrient Reduction Strategy (The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is primarily responsible for this). I am currently representing the University on a multi-agency task force that is evaluating the science that went into the previous version from 2014 to determine what changes are necessary for the new plan that is due in 2025. This document will be used to guide practice and funding decisions on a local level as the state does its part to address hypoxia issues in the Gulf of Mexico. 

View the U of M's corn fertilizer guidelines to learn more:


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