Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
Supply · Service · Stewardship

Keep N for the Crop: Protect Early Spring Applied Nitrogen

Mother Nature is giving us an early taste of Spring, and this provides an opportunity to get spring anhydrous ammonia applied earlier than usual.  First of all, be safe out there and follow all the ammonia laws and regulations to ensure the safe storage, transport and application of ammonia.  Do not transport nurse tanks over 25 mph--failure to control the tanks due to excess speed is the major cause of most accidents with ammonia nurse tanks.  
Next, follow the 4Rs.  The IFCA Keep it 4R Crop Program promotes the use of labeled nitrification inhibitors for all fall applied anhydrous ammonia to protect it from loss prior to crop uptake.  The same theory goes for early spring applied anhydrous.  Everything we as an industry can do to keep nitrogen in a stable form and available to the crop when it needs it is essential to meeting the goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.  
Click here to see a slide from the University of Illinois showing conversion of ammonium to nitrate in stabilized vs.unstabilized reserach plots.  As you are talking with farmers about spring nitrogen during this early warm spell, encourage your growers to stabilize their ammonia with N-Serve. In 2015, IFCA conducted N-WATCH studies to track ammonium vs nitrate in spring ammonia applied with and without N-Serve; click here to see the results and the difference in the ammonium vs nitrate levels one month after application.  We are still a ways off from planting corn, and each day that soil bacteria is active, ammonium is being converted to nitrate.
This past fall and winter, we have stayed in constant communication with water supplies including Lake Springfield, Lake Decatur, Lake Vermilion and Lake Bloomington/Evergreen.  Because of the warm fall, we saw nitrate levels in the lakes rise due to loss of nitrogen from the soil after harvest, and field tiles were also running during January, which is also not typical.  Nitrogen loss potential exists out there, and it is in everyone's best interest to protect nitrogen using tools that are readily available and proven to stabilize anhydrous ammonia.  So far we can attribute most N losses during the winter to mineralized nitrogen, but nitrate is nitrate and it will help if we don't unnecessarily add to the nitrogen loss potential:  protect your early applied spring ammonia with N-Serve.    
We have been successful so far in showing that voluntary efforts are working to reduce nutrient losses.  We must stay dedicated to this mission.  People notice, and when ammonia is being applied in February, they are asking if it is being stabilized.  So please everyone, let's stay focused on the 4Rs.  If Mother Nature is giving us a "time" to put on ammonia in February, let's do it right!