Avoiding Nitrogen Deficiency as Fertilizer Costs Remain Volatile

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Nitrogen deficiency

As you get into your customers’ cornfields this growing season, you’ll no doubt be scouting for signs of nitrogen deficiency. And if you find these signs, your farmers will likely ask what they can do now to positively influence their yield potential. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help them turn the tide and maximize nitrogen management in crop before it’s too late.

Nitrogen Deficiency in Corn

Nitrogen deficiency is something farmers think about every season. However, Justin Dikeman, product marketing leader for Nutrient Maximizers at Corteva Agriscience, says the issue seems to be especially close to the forefront this year.

“There are two main reasons nitrogen deficiency is especially concerning for Midwest farmers and retailers this season,” Dikeman says. “The first is that, with the high costs of nitrogen fertilizer, some farmers tried to get by with lower application rates, even if that wasn’t necessarily advisable. The second is that it’s been a wetter-than-average spring for several states, leading to excess nitrogen loss.”

Nitrogen fertilizer prices hit record highs in 2022 and, though they’ve eased somewhat, have remained volatile. So, it’s not surprising that some farmers did try to save on the expense this season.

And even if your customers applied their normal nitrogen rates, the chances are good that they may have experienced wet spring weather. Dikeman says excess rain increases the chance of nitrogen loss via leaching, and nitrogen loss can, in turn, lead to nitrogen deficiency.

“Now is a great time to remind customers to look for — or help them look for — the telltale signs of nitrogen deficiency in their corn this season,” Dikeman says. “The signs include spindly stalks and leaf firing, which starts as pale, greenish-yellow leaves and spreads in a ‘V’ pattern with dry, brown tips and edges.”

Dikeman says these more obvious signs don’t typically appear until corn reaches the later vegetative or early reproductive growth stages. For younger corn, nitrogen deficiency is harder to spot and may manifest as a slight reduction in green color and slight variation in height uniformity.

Dealing With Nitrogen Deficiency

If your customers find these signs of nitrogen deficiency, Dikeman says there are still steps you can take in-crop to make up at least some of that lost ground.  

Depending on what growth stage a farmers’ corn has reached, a sidedress nitrogen application may still be a good option, for example. However, timing and costs might not be on your customers’ side at the moment.

“Another good option for corn farmers dealing with nitrogen deficiency this season is an application of a new biological called Utrisha N nutrient efficiency optimizer,” Dikeman says. “It’s an alternative sustainable nitrogen fixation solution, which works with a variety of crops.”

The active ingredient in UtrishaN nutrient efficiency optimizer is a bacterium that captures nitrogen from the air, supplying it to plants throughout the growing season to enhance growth and, ultimately, optimize yield potential.  

Field trials of Utrisha N have shown the product helps increase corn yield potential under the right conditions: