Minnesota Farmer

Last minute N

It has been wet his month.  If you count the last day of May we have had almost 10 inches of rain in 20 days.  The last 4 days have seen almost rain free and puddles have retreated.  A stray tractor or two attempted the fields yesterday and more were out today.

I was lucky to get the weeds sprayed in the corn just before the rain started, but back then the corn was only about 6 inches tall.  Now most of it is passed 20 inches and stretching for the sky.  I needed to get into the field and get that last shot of N down.  This afternoon I gave it a try.100_2719

Nitrogen (N) is a vital nutrient for all grasses and corn really needs the N if it is to produce.  The problem is that the amount of N corn needs is not available naturally in the soil, and too much N in the wrong form will move with water out of the soil.   You really have to study the Nitrogen Cycle to understand what is going on.  To make it easy for you, the types of N that are easy to put on the soil to feed corn, whether they are organic or inorganic, do not go directly to the corn roots.  They must be broken down into a form that will move with water by bacteria.  There are some types of N producing products that break down slower than others, but none will stay in the soil forever.  Thus it is necessary to either overload the field so N will be left for the whole season or add N late in the season.  That’s what I was doing today, putting on that last shot of N.100_2720The corn is almost too tall in some places, so it is time to get going.  It is also the perfect time since corn really needs a shot of N now, and a little stirring of that rain packed soil will not hurt any either.  The problem is that there are still some wet spots out there, but if it rains again, it will be too late to get the job done.

I’m putting on anhydrous ammonia (NH3).  This is one of the most hazardous things I do.  NH3 is delivered as a pressurized liquid.  As long as it stays under pressure it stays liquid, but release the pressure and it turns in to a gas, and the extreme cold produced will burn you.  The gas is also an inhalation hazard, breath in too much and you burn your insides also.  Despite all the hazards, NH3 is inexpensive and easy to apply, you just need to be careful.

So here’s hoping I can get the last of the N on the fields.  I’m also hoping I do not get all of that machinery stuck in one of those wet spots.




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