Nitrogen is the most important nutrient that corn needs. The problem with nitrogen is that it’s subject to loss through leaching, denitrification and volatilization, so growers are constantly trying to figure out ways to minimize that loss while maximizing returns. Based on research conducted at the University of Illinois by Plant Physiology Professor Dr. Fred Below and Graduate Research Assistant Eric Winans, ESN may check both those boxes and offer growers 4R and yield advantages, especially when banded.
When does corn need nitrogen?
To understand why ESN and banding make such a good combination, it’s important to first understand corn’s nitrogen needs. From growth stage V9 to grain fill, a corn plant uptakes more than seven pounds of nitrogen per-acre, per-day for 21 days. By the end of R1, the plant will have taken in 75% of its total nitrogen. In an attempt to improve nitrogen use, many growers have moved toward applying pre-plant and part sidedress, but banded ESN takes nutrient availability one step further. Because ESN is a controlled-release fertilizer, growers only need to apply nitrogen once for season-long availability, and because you’re banding it right beneath the row, this guarantees the amount of nitrogen available at the start of the season when the crop is setting its yield trajectory.
Protecting the seed and the environment
The performance of ESN itself really stems from the fact that it’s controlled released. So it gets triggered by contact with moisture, but soil temperature controls the rate at which it’s released. One of the big advantages of a controlled release is that it allows ESN to be applied close to the seed without injury. That’s also what allows growers to be able to band it without worry.
With urea, you don’t get all the added benefit of banding when because it releases its nitrogen all at once. As a result, it can form free ammonium, which can burn the crop and it can just be too much nitrogen at one time. Research conducted at the University of Illinois by Plant Physiology Professor Dr. Fred Below and Graduate Research Assistant revealed that 95% of plants emerged when applied via banded ESN. Only 73% of plants emerge with banded urea.
A good start leads to a great finish
When your crop gets off to a good start, where you’ve given it the right nutrients with ESN, in the right place by banding, and at the right time with controlled release, you really set yourself up for a great harvest.