A Deeper Dive into Nitrogen

January 11, 2022


When assessing nutrient management within a plant, what is arguably the most detrimental macro-nutrient? Many argue that nitrogen acts as the most crucial plant nutrient among all others.

Nitrogen is one of the most essential macro-nutrients required for proper growth and development of a plant. It is only taken up through the plant by two forms, nitrate and ammonium, both of which are subject to loss from environmental conditions. Nitrate, a negatively charged ion, is lost through mass flow within the soil, caused by large movements of water laterally or horizontally. Ammonium converts into ammonia from urea’s hydrolysis reaction, which allows the ammonia gas to be lost through volatilization. When selecting nitrogen-based fertilizers, take into consideration your environmental factors, and decide how to better utilize this nutrient’s extreme mobility.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Nitrogen Management:

1.Am I properly managing my nitrogen? Look at the most effective forms of application, understand how the nutrient is lost, and when plants utilize the nutrient (also when it uses the most in the growth cycle).

2.What steps do I take to avoid extreme loss of nitrogen via mass flow or volatilization? Consider nitrogen stabilizer forms such as NBPT or DCD, which both works to keep the specific nitrogen form from being lost.

3.What nitrogen stabilizer is right for me? NBPT or DCD (contact your local agronomist with more details). NBPT-inhibits the urease enzyme for a period of time, which ceases the hydrolysis of urea. DCD-inhibits bacteria that convert ammonium to nitrate to allow a slow release of the product.

4. How can I split apply nitrogen? Foliar, Y-drop nozzles, top dressing, etc.

5. What if I can’t split apply nitrogen? Label approved nitrogen-based fertilizers can be tank mixed with an herbicide pass. 

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Nitrogen’s Utilization Inside a Plant

When assessing nutrient management within a plant, what is arguably the most detrimental macro-nutrient? Many argue that nitrogen acts as the most crucial plant nutrient among all others. Nitrogen makes the building blocks for protein creation, which eventually build enzymes. These enzymes act as a catalyst for cellular reactions and set up a guide for metabolic pathways. When looking at nitrogen uptake and availability within any plant, we can make a valid argument each critical growth period requires proper nitrogen levels to ensure optimal plant growth. Here is a breakdown of nitrogen within the plant: 

85% used in protein creation 

10% used in nucleic acids 

5% in amino acid reserve 

Deficiency Symptoms 

Nitrogen deficiency slightly varies among crop types, but a general rule of thumb is the lower leaves of the plant are the first to show symptoms. The leaves will start to change from light/pale green to yellow, which indicates the plant is starting to cannibalize itself. Lower leaves will eventually begin to senescence from the plant. To properly monitor nutrients, take in-season tissue samples to ensure the plant maintains healthy levels of nitrogen to undergo desired metabolic functions. 

Simplot Grower Solutions’ trusted advisers can help farmers limit nitrogen loss which allows crops to reach maximum yield potential. Contact your local Simplot Grower Solutions sales representative to learn more about our nitrogen management solutions. 

- Tyler Carda 

Tyler worked as an intern with Pinnacle Agriculture for 3 years, which gave him the opportunity to work directly with Innvictis Crop Care, LLC and Mission Seed Solutions, LLC products in both full fields and strip-trial settings. This experience allowed him to fully understand how proprietary products perform in different scenarios. Tyler is now a Simplot Grower Solutions Proprietary Products Agronomist for the northern geographies. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy and Precision Agriculture from South Dakota State University. 

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