Equipment Prep for Fall Nitrogen Applications

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Anhydrous fall application

If you’re making your own nitrogen application this fall, now is a great time to check over your equipment and make any necessary repairs. Taking a little bit of time now can ensure you’re ready to roll as soon as the weather is right, and the soil is fit for fall nitrogen.

Anhydrous ammonia and liquid manure are the nitrogen fertilizer types that are most often applied in fall. In this article, Andrew Luzum, a Nutrient Maximizer Strategic Account Manager for Corteva Agriscience, has tips to prepare to apply either.  

Anhydrous Application Prep

It’s probably been awhile since you used your anhydrous ammonia applicator, so Luzum recommends looking over every piece of it very carefully. He says to look for signs of wear and tear and replace anything that looks broken or worn.  

Three smaller components Luzum recommends giving extra attention are:

  • Gaskets
  • Hoses
  • Valves

He says these components can wear out easily for several reasons.  

“Sunlight, kinks and cuts can shorten hose life and leave for soft spots that could break under pressure and put your safety at risk during application,” says Luzum. “Anhydrous Ammonia can be a dangerous product when not handled correctly. By doing these preventative maintenance pieces, you can avoid safety issues and save time at application.”

“Anhydrous Ammonia can be a dangerous product when not handled correctly. By doing these preventative maintenance pieces, you can avoid safety issues and save time at application.” 

Luzum recommends making sure you have all necessary personal protective equipment ready to go for your anhydrous applications in advance just to save a little bit more time. You can read more safety recommendations here.   

Additionally, Luzum advises calibrating your anhydrous application equipment, “I would always ensure calibration with the first tank of the year. Anhydrous ammonia is such a costly input in today’s market, the last thing we want to do is unintentionally mis-apply.”

And, because nitrogen fertilizer is so expensive right now, Luzum says it’s a good idea to consider protecting your fall anhydrous with N-Serve® nitrogen stabilizer.  

“Nitrogen prices have risen drastically in the past 12 months, and it appears our fall input prices will still be close to record highs. Nitrogen will likely be the highest input cost of a corn crop for 2023, excluding land cost,” he says. “It’s important for the grower to do what is economically viable.”

N-Serve is powered by Optinyte® technology, which is shown to reduce nitrogen leaching and denitrification – and increase yield potential by an average of 7% when used with fall applications.1 Protecting your fall anhydrous with a proven stabilizer like N-Serve can help you maximize your return on that investment.  

Liquid Manure Application Prep

When it comes to liquid manure applications, as with anhydrous ammonia, Luzum recommends taking out your application equipment, looking it over for any worn or broken parts and calibrating it for proper application rates. He says making those repairs now will save you headaches when it’s time to apply.  

Luzum says it’s also a good idea to do other prep for liquid manure.  

“I recommend farmers take manure samples to know the analysis and amounts of each nutrient in the manure beforehand,” he says. “This measurement will help determine rates with their manure management plan and let them plan ahead if they need to make additional applications of any of the nutrients.”

“I recommend taking manure samples to know the analysis and amounts of each nutrient in the manure beforehand.”

Luzum also recommends protecting your liquid manure with a proven nitrogen stabilizer this fall. He says Instinct NXTGEN® nitrogen stabilizer is powered by Optinyte technology and brings the same powerful protection to liquid manure that N-Serve brings to anhydrous ammonia.

He says if you do use Instinct NXTGEN to protect your manure, you’ll likely mix the stabilizer into the pit yourself. So, it’s a good idea to do the math on your application rate ahead of time as well.  

“One would just want to make sure the pit gallonage is accurately figured so they can decide rate. You decide the rate by first taking the number of gallons in the manure pit, dividing it by gallons of manure applied per acre and then taking that number and multiplying it by the Instinct NXTGEN use rate,” Luzum explains. “For example, say a pit is 1,000,000 gallons and they will be applying 4,500 gallons to the acre, that’s 222 acres. The use rate of Instinct NXTGEN is 24 ounces per acre and there are 128 ounces in a gallon. So, you would need to put roughly 41 gallons of Instinct NXTGEN in the pit.”  

Here’s another look at that math problem:  

  • 24 oz/A = Instinct NXTGEN use rate  
  • 128 oz = 1 gal
  • 1,000,000 gal ÷ 4,500 gal/A = 222 acres
    • 222 acres x 24 oz/A = 5,333 oz
    • 5,333 oz ÷ 128 oz/gal = 41 gallons of Instinct NXTGEN added to the pit

“You would want to put this as evenly around the pit to ensure as much uniformity as possible when the pit begins to get agitated,” Luzum advises.

Wait for the Right Time

Once you have your nitrogen application equipment prepped, Luzum says it’s just a matter of waiting until the soil is fit to apply.

“Application of liquid manure and anhydrous ammonia should wait until soil temperatures are 50°F and trending downward. That usually occurs in late October into early November. Warmer soils will drive nitrogen conversion and increase the risk of nitrogen loss,” says Luzum. “You also want to apply before the ground freezes so the nitrogen can get into the soil.”

Luzum says taking these steps to prepare ahead, wait for the right time to apply and plan to protect your nitrogen with a proven stabilizer are all great ways to get the best possible return on that investment – and help keep excess nitrogen out of the environment.

“All of this is important because it supports the 4R Nutrient Management. We want to ensure we are placing our fertility with the right source, right rate, right time, and right place. Following this prep allows us to be ready to do so, while doing it safely,” he says.

See how much nitrogen you could lose by not protecting your fall application with N-Serve or Instinct NXTGEN this fall by using our nitrogen loss calculator.


1Wolt, J. D. 2004. A meta-evaluation of nitrapyrin agronomic and environmental effectiveness with emphasis on corn production in the Midwestern USA. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. 69: 23–41.  

Instinct NXTGEN® is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Do not fall-apply anhydrous ammonia south of Highway 16 in the state of Illinois. Always read and follow label directions.