Nitrogen is an incredibly important and valuable element of good cotton production, but must be carefully managed for optimal crop performance. Too much nitrogen can ruin fiber quality, increase pest problems, stunt maturity, and cause excess runoff. Too little, however, can decrease yield, lower fiber quality, reduce leaf size, and hinder fruit retention. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your nitrogen this planting season.
Soil should be tested before planting to get an idea of how much nitrate (NO3-) already exists in the soil.
Be sure to do this every year at a depth of about 2 feet. Testing the amount of residual nitrate can help ensure the right amount of additional fertilizer is added, as not to waste valuable nitrogen, or over-saturate the soil for future years.
Know your soil zone and monitor your crops accordingly.
Nitrogen loss is more likely to occur in heavy textured or sandy areas. Your cotton crop will suffer from a lack of nitrogen if not monitored properly, as with any crop, but over application can also cause crop damage and a hit to your bottom line. The loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere during hot, dry and dusty conditions (volatilization) and microbe attacks in standing water (denitrification) are significant risks that can only be managed with the proper nitrogen source, timing, rate and placement. Signs of nitrogen deficiency include chlorosis (yellowing or browning of the crop), stunted growth, decreased seed per boll amount, smaller bolls, and reduced lint quality/length.
Finally, set realistic yield goals, taking the many factors at play in your crop’s success into consideration.
Set your current and future crops up for success by making decisions on nitrogen inputs that are based on your soil tests and the needs of your crops.
ESN can help manage nitrogen efficiency and application timing. In cotton, ESN can be applied pre-planting, as a side- or top-dress application, or as part of a split nitrogen application strategy. A single application is convenient and saves operations in a growing crop, while a side- or top-dress application may provide better synchronization of N release with crop N demand. A split application provides maximum flexibility in nitrogen timing.
For more information on ESN use recommendations in cotton, click here.
To see ESN in action, watch our virtual reality video on cotton here.
Questions or comments? Check us out on Twitter @smartnitrogen.