5 Ways to Help Customers Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency

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Corn brace roots

With the growing season quickly approaching, now is the time for your customers to evaluate nutrient use efficiency (NUE) on their operations and make plans to optimize their nutrient management programs.

Jon Stofer, Nutrient Maximizer strategic account manager, Corteva Agriscience, says NUE can be defined as a measure of how effectively plants utilize nutrients — such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other essential elements — for growing and development. In other words, NUE measures both the quantity of available nutrients for crops and how well these nutrients are used.

“An annual evaluation of NUE can help customers make necessary changes to their programs based on weather and soil conditions,” Stofer says.

As a trusted crop protection retailer, you can provide customers with tailored expertise to create an effective nutrient management program. Here are five recommendations to offer customers looking to improve NUE on their operation. 

  1. Implement the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles. “These four guiding principles should be used as the backbone of fertility plans to help align the economic, social and environmental components of nutrient management,” Stofer says. The 4R concept incorporates the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. These practices help produce higher-yielding corn with less fertilizer per bushel — a win-win for the environment and customers’ return on investment
  2. Evaluate stabilization options and spring soil conditions. Many customers understand the need for nitrogen stabilizers in their fall applications but may not see the necessity in spring applications. However, spring stabilization is just as important as fall stabilization. Heavy spring rains and higher soil temperatures can drive leaching and denitrification, potentially stripping the corn plant of valuable nutrient uptake during key growth stages. Spring stabilization helps ensure nitrogen is in the right place when the crop needs it most.

    Before applying nitrogen stabilizers in the spring, pay close attention to soil conditions for the best nutrient retention in the soil. If applying anhydrous ammonia, the soil should be moist enough that the fertilizer can disperse, but not too wet that the knife tracks fail to properly close. Applications should also never occur on frozen ground or with frost still visible on the soil.
  3. Employ proven nitrogen stabilizers. “Balancing nitrogen with crop demand is key to optimizing NUE and corn production,” Stofer emphasizes. “One way we can mitigate nitrogen loss is using N-Serve and Instinct NXTGEN nitrogen stabilizers, both powered by Optinyte technology. This technology keeps nitrogen in the root zone longer to help maximize crop yield while minimizing environmental degradation from leaching and dentification.”

    N-Serve® nitrogen stabilizer works with anhydrous ammonia, while Instinct NXTGEN® nitrogen stabilizer brings the same superior protection to UAN, urea and liquid manure. Studies show the use of N-Serve or Instinct NXTGEN nitrogen stabilizer increases corn yield by an average of 7 bushels per acre. If corn costs $5 per bushel, that’s an average return of $35 per acre.*
  4. Consider biological products. Nitrogen stabilizers can be used in conjunction with biologicals such as Utrisha® N and Utrisha® P to maximize traditional nutrient management programs for improved plant health and increased yield potential.

    The active ingredient in Utrisha N is a nitrogen-fixing bacterium that is applied on the corn during the V5 or V6 growth stage to naturally supply the crop with nitrogen from the atmosphere throughout the growing season.

    Feeding the crop nutrients until the very end of the season can help customers improve their return on investment and grow more bushels per acre. In fact, soybean yield increases can average 3.1 bu/A and corn yield increases can average 6.9 bu/A after Utrisha N applications.

    Utrisha P works with a variety of crops to improve below-ground phosphorus availability. The active ingredient in Utrisha P is a plant-growth-promoting bacterium that helps release soil-bound phosphorus for plant uptake, which leads to better nutrient availability and use by the plant. By increasing root growth and plant resiliency at the beginning of the growing season, the plant can quickly intercept more nutrients and water for higher yield potential.
  5. Split nitrogen applications. Applying more fertilizer in one application does not always lead to higher yield or a better return on investment. “There is an optimal range of fertilizer that should be applied per acre, and exceeding that range can result in diminishing returns and negative results,” Stofer says. When applying more fertilizer at one time, the nutrients are more susceptible to loss, especially if application occurs before a major rain event.

    “Breaking up the applications throughout the growing season can help balance out nutrient inputs with the needs of the crop to minimize loss, enhance environmental stewardship, reduce unnecessary costs and increase yield potential,” Stofer adds.

    In fact, recent trials at Purdue University show the biggest yield advantage came from split application treatment tests with Instinct NXTGEN nitrogen stabilizer. You can learn more about the trial results here.

Prioritizing NUE can help customers improve yield while boosting their return on investment. Contact your local Corteva Agriscience representative or visit NutrientMaximizers.com to learn more about the benefits of creating efficient and sustainable nutrient management programs.

*Based on 2015 Dow AgroSciences field trials resulting in an average 7 bu./A yield increase at $5/bu.


Instinct NXTGEN®, Utrisha® N and Utrisha® P are 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. Optinyte®is a registered active ingredient. Always read and follow label directions.