Understanding and Preventing Nitrogen Leaching

If you farm in a region with coarse, well-drained soils, chances are you’ve faced the threat of leaching. Many growers combat leaching with additional nitrogen applications, which are costly and time-consuming during already busy farming seasons.

Leaching is the movement of nitrogen out of the root zone. When crops are over-irrigated or precipitation is excessive, some nutrients may be “washed” away. The valuable crop inputs in which you invested move beyond the reach of plant roots, causing the plant to lose out on key nutrients needed for healthy, high-yielding crops.

With conventional sources, nitrogen sits in the soil in the water-soluble form and can be quickly lost when excess moisture is present. Under severe conditions, leaching can result in losses of up to 50 to 60 percent of your applied nitrogen – so how can you as a grower prevent this loss?

Irrigation Management

Growers in certain regions use irrigation to deliver optimal moisture to crops without promoting leaching. To ensure efficient and not excessive irrigation, getting out into the field and testing your soil regularly is vital, as well as having a solid understanding of the topography, soil composition and crop water requirements. Proper irrigation ­– giving your crop water when it needs it while not over-irrigating – is critical to preventing leaching.

Apply ESN

Excess moisture is not ideal, but applying ESN, a controlled-release nitrogen, can significantly reduce the potential for nitrogen loss. ESN is a polymer-coated fertilizer designed to protect the nitrogen and allow it to release over a period of about 50 to 80 days during rapid crop growth. ESN’s nitrogen release rate is controlled by soil temperature, one of the conditions that triggers plant growth. By applying ESN, you know that your crops are getting the nitrogen they need when they need it.

ESN is different from other enhanced-efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) because it works by a unique mode of action, providing benefits for a longer time than is common for inhibitors and stabilizers.

To learn more about how ESN can help prevent leaching, contact your local ESN representative here.

For more information on nitrogen loss, click here.

For questions and comments about ESN, tweet us @SmartNitrogen.