Is Side Dressing Growing Crops An Effective Strategy?

Delivering nutrition to a corn crop this time of year can be crucial to its growth and to your overall yield. An effective way of applying fertilizer, such as nitrogen, is through sidedress applications.

In this week’s blog post, Concept AgriTek’s Daniel Hensley and Bert Riggan explain why applying fertilizer between the rows of growing crops is an effective strategy.

Sidedress applications “give us the perfect opportunity to really ramp up micronutrients,” Hensley said.

Many farmers will use between 20 and 40 gallons of nitrogen per acre to deliver to the crop via sidedressing.

“When they do that, it gives us a really good opportunity to put some more potassium in there, and to ramp up our boron, manganese, sulfur and zinc applications,” Hensley said. “It all goes back to spoon feeding the crop. It lets us get in that corn a little bit later and really give it another big shot of nitrogen to push it through till tassel.”

Timing is key

If you are using a Y-drop applicator on a spray rig, the later in the season you can sidedress corn, the more effective it will be, Hensley said.

“It helps us get through that mid-season vegetative cycle and get into the reproductive stages,” Hensley said. “I like to see it as late as your applicator can get through it. So if you’re just using a tool bar with a cultivator and you’re dribbling it out the back of the cultivator, then you’re probably not going to get through that corn much past V6, but if you’re using a sprayer like a Hagie, then you should be able to get through that corn up to a V9 or V10, but I’d like to see most of that (sidedressed) by that V10 timeframe.”

This time of year, corn grows at a rapid pace, and a nitrogen deficiency can have an adverse effect on the crop.

“We know from tissue test values and yield comparisons that low nitrogen values from V8 to Vt can reduce yield,” Riggan said. “The amount on nitrogen needed is wildly variable and depends on soil type, variety and regional weather. The nitrogen to potassium ratio leading up to VT should be slightly in favor of nitrogen. After pollination, the nitrogen to potassium ratio needs to shift in favor of potassium to insure robust starch production.”

Working around the weather

As we chronicled in last week’s blog post, the weather has played a big factor this growing season in many parts of the country. Some areas are seeing extreme drought conditions, while others have been inundated with rain and are plagued with saturated fields.

Understanding how to adapt to those conditions will be a major factor in determining yield.

“Weather after a nitrogen application can have a tremendous impact on the crop’s ability to take up the nitrogen,” Riggan said. “If you are applying dry nitrogen, try to apply when you have good soil moisture or are expecting a rain shortly after application. If you have irrigation, a good quarter- to half-inch of water should be plenty to activate the nitrogen. If you are looking to apply a liquid form of nitrogen, then we strongly encourage you to stabilize the nitrogen with sulfur. This will decrease the volatilization and keep most of the product available in the root zone for plant use. Saturated or dry soils are not good environments for any soil applied nutrients.”

How Concept AgriTek Can Help

So how can you effectively provide your crop the boost it needs to get it to tassel?

Concept AgriTek’s Bert Riggan offers these suggestions:

  • For liquid nitrogen products, we recommend using S17. This is a sulfur-based product with our proprietary Nitro-Tek technology. S17 provides stabilization through the 17% sulfur and provides another advantage to help prevent leaching from our carbon lattice found in the Nitro-Tek technology.
  • For liquid applications, we encourage the grower to add other nutrients like potassium (Concept-K13), zinc (Concept-Z9) or boron (Concept-B10). As always, we recommend you check for product compatibility before tank mixing.
  • For dry nitrogen products, we offer our Carbo Guard product to help encase the dry fertilizer in a carbon lattice that will help stabilize the dry granules and increase availability to your crop.

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