The role of nitrogen in a sustainable farm plan

nitrogen management

Nitrogen management can be one of the most costly and frustrating aspects of running a farm – equal parts science, luck and hope. It can be a hair-pulling exercise when weather conditions change abruptly and your nitrogen investment is lost to the environment.

When moisture is adequate, nitrogen encourages the plant to grow faster and accumulate more biomass, creating a higher yield potential. But when moisture is scarce, the plant will start shedding leaves in order to survive because the increased biomass is no longer allowing the plant to sufficiently feed itself. Facing increased weather volatility, farmers are turning to new ideas and technologies to help mitigate the risks that come with nutrient application.

The 4 Rs of nutrient stewardship

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship method is one of the approaches that is helping farmers enhance production, profitability and environmental sustainability. To achieve those goals, the 4R concept incorporates the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.

According to “Properly managed fertilizers support cropping systems that provide economic, social and environmental benefits. On the other hand, poorly managed nutrient applications can decrease profitability and increase nutrient losses, potentially degrading water and air.

“4R nutrient stewardship requires the implementation of best management practices (BMPs) that optimize the efficiency of fertilizer use. The goal of fertilizer BMPs is to match nutrient supply with crop requirements and to minimize nutrient losses from fields. Selection of BMPs varies by location, and those chosen for a given farm are dependent on local soil and climatic conditions, crop, management conditions and other site-specific factors.”

The right fertilizer for your crops
Choosing the right fertilizer based on your specific soil and climate is crucial for getting your nutrient management plan off to a good start. Very wet or sandy conditions can make leaching a big problem not only for your farm but for the local environment as well. Volatility is also a factor in how effective your nitrogen will be, because wind, heat, humidity, high soil pH, and numerous other factors can impact the rate at which you need to reapply. Application timing is another major consideration, ensuring growing plants get the nutrients they need precisely when they need it most.

When making your nitrogen decision, consider a nitrogen source that protects against loss mechanisms, like ESN SMART NITROGEN®. ESN has a protective polymer coating that releases nitrogen to your crops in response to soil temperature. Overall, using ESN can reduce crop loss, reduce nitrogen runoff, and keep more money in your pocket.

To learn how ESN works, click here.

For application recommendations, click here.

Questions or comments? Tweet us @Smartnitrogen.