Corn Yield and Nitrogen Application: Are You Applying Too Much?

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17 Nov 237 min 50 secPremium Content

In this member video, Kelly Garrett discusses two critical corn trials he conducted this season, focusing on sustainable agriculture practices and efficient use of nitrogen in farming:

  1. Nitrogen Stabilizer Trial: This trial compared two different nitrogen stabilizers (N-Serve vs. MaintaiN Elite) to assess which one yields a higher return on investment (ROI). The objective was to identify a product that not only enhances crop yield but is also good for preserving soil biology.

  2. Anhydrous Nitrogen Application Trial: The second trial explored varying amounts of anhydrous nitrogen application – 60, 120, 180, and 240 pounds – to determine the optimal quantity for the best ROI. This trial aimed to challenge the conventional practices regarding nitrogen use in farming.

As a result of these findings, he plans to modify his nitrogen application strategy for the next farming season, aiming for more sustainable and efficient use of resources.


Coming to you from the lunchroom at Garrett Land and Cattle. You know, I came in here today to eat lunch and uh, sat down with some information that Evans gave me that he had run, has run. We're getting far enough through harvest now that we're starting to compile some of our data on the trials that we do for extreme Ag. And two of 'em today really stood out to me. We're very exciting. Both of 'em have to do with nitrogen. The first one is maintain elite. The nitrogen stabilization product that we get from Maris Stim. We put that in a trial versus iner. Nerv is really, I would say the grower standard practice of nitrogen stabilization products in Western Iowa here, at least, I don't know about where everybody else lives, but out here, very much NerVve commands the market, but it's really hard on soil biology. Maintain elite is advertised to actually help soil biology more than even bare anhydrous or especially anhydrous with NerVve. The way nerv works is it kills all the biology. Now over the fall and the winter, things like that come back in the spring. That biology is pretty forgiving and will heal itself. But anything we can do to help soil biology, anything we can then do to improve soil health is an effort that's well worth the time. And so here we put in maintain elite. We had it versus nerv to see what, uh, to see what we could do. And it was a 12 bushel yield increase, 12.73 yield bushel increase. And depending upon the, uh, price of NerVve, you're talking 70 to maybe $77 ROI figuring $5 corn. You wanna figure $6 corn, it's gonna get even larger. Here we're talking about maintaining wheat being better for soil health than serf. And look at what happens. This is a great, uh, video for sustainability and regenerative ag as well, because we're talking about better soil health. We're talking about turning down our nitrogen. Well, it's kind of scary to turn down your nitrogen, but when you know that you're stabilizing it with a product like maintain elite, now we can turn down the nitrogen. We can be comfortable that what we're putting out there is gonna stay. You know, in years past I've heard a grower saying, well, rather than using NerVve, I'll just put on a few more pounds of n. That's not a great plan either. When we're talking about wanting to be more conscientious about the nitrogen we're putting in the soil, we're wanting to be more conscientious about synthetic fertilizer, not only because of our ROI, but because of our soil health moving forward, helping the environment maintain elite is a great product that is gonna become a grower standard practice on my farm. A 70, 75, 70 $8, uh, ROI. That's huge money. The other trial that we're gonna talk about today is our nitrogen trial. The grower standard practice that we use is 180 pounds of fall applied anhydrous with maintain elite versus no anhydrous applied. 60 pounds of anhydrous, 120 pounds of anhydrous, and 240 pounds of anhydrous. All applied, replicated three times. Now zero anhydrous, uh, lost $276 an acre versus 180 pounds. So obviously we don't want to go with zero. It was a Negative 67 bushel versus the 180 pounds. Two things I find interesting here. The 60 pounds of anhydrous was 2.7 bushel less than the 180, almost too close to call. So then actually that was a net. ROI of $36. 60 pounds of anhydrous was $36 better than 180 pounds of anhydrous. The 60 pounds of anhydrous did yield 2.7 bushel less. But because you don't have to pay for that extra 120 pounds of anhydrous, we did actually have a net ROI of $36. I can't think of any better proof of over application of nitrogen by farmers than this study right here, especially in western Iowa. The soil's great, you know, temple and Matt and Chad all wanna make fun of me for how good my soil is. Well, this is where we need to be utilizing it better. And this is where farmers with this good soil could do a better job and recognize what they need to put out there. $36 an acres real money and 60 pounds of anhydrous was just 2.7 bushel less than 180. The 120 pounds of anhydrous was 5.6 bushel less than the 180 and showed a loss of $4 and 57 cents. So obviously in this example, there was enough of a bushel loss and only 60 pounds less anhydrous. The net ROI was a negative $4 and 57 cents. Now, if we go all the way up to the 240 pounds of anhydrous, because I do know a lot of growers that will put on 240 pounds of anhydrous, and I always hear the statement, I want nitrogen to be my yield limiting factor. Well, 240 pounds of anhydrous replicated three times averaged three bushel less than the 180 pounds. That shows you that that extra nitrogen is not your yield limiting factor. You don't need to do it and it actually can hurt you. And that was a loss of $41 and 30 cents versus the grower standard practice. So when we talk about it here and you want to talk about extremes, I mean, this is extreme egg 240 pounds of anhydrous is $77 less money per acre than 60 pounds of anhydrous. Think about that, $77 an acre. Next year we're gonna go into a an area where I think we're gonna have sub $5 corn, maybe even sub four 50 corn. And you wanna talk about a return of $77 an acre. That might be all we make. You know, I've farmed a lot of years hoping to make a hundred dollars. Here's an example of a trial of 60 pounds of anhydrous versus two 40 and we're talking $77. That gets back to my original statement of using a product like maintain elite to stabilize it to make sure that that 60 pounds is there. Now, I won't put 60 pounds all across the farm in a high yielding area. I'll turn it all the way down to 60 or 80 pounds in a lower yielding area. I will turn it up. And that is because I believe that the biological system of the soil in a high yield area is cranking out so much organic fertility, natural fertility, that we don't need all the synthetic debt. We just need to help it and supplement it a little bit. And we will turn up the rate to, Uh, and we will turn up the rate in a low yielding area. Used to be in a low yielding area, I would turn it up to 240 pounds. Now we've learned we don't need to do that and that, uh, nitrogen isn't the yield limiting factor in those low yielding areas. What the yield limiting factor is, is hydrogen. We need more hydrogen in those low-yielding areas. Predominantly for me, a low yielding area is probably high pH, which is, has a base saturation number of calcium that could be in the eighties or even the nineties, and there isn't enough available hydrogen there. So the extra anhydrous in that area was, you know, anhydrous is NH three. That's where we are getting the yield help there. It wasn't from nitrogen at all. These two examples of trials, the maintain elite trial and then the variable rate nitrogen trial are great examples of sustainable ag. And that's what our friends at Tru Tera are working on and showing that we are over-applying nitrogen. Not only does that make our soil health better, not only does that make us more sustainable, helps our groundwater and all things environmental, but also it helps our ROI The two paths are converging the high yield path and the soil health path. And it's all about making a greater ROI using variable rate technology to turn down the amount of anhydrous that I'm applying to the field, saves input dollars and increases yield using products to stabilize that nitrogen and know it's gonna stay where I'm at. Helping the soil health, helping the sustainability. That really adds to the ROI on my farm, and that's where I like to say every farmer is a steward of the land, whether they know it or not. Every farmer wants to be sustainable because they're trying to make a living and nobody wants to be wasteful. This is what we're talking about at tru. I would really encourage everyone to reach out to a Tru retailer and go through their soil health assessment tool and see where your farm is at. It can help you make decisions that could add to profitability on your farm.

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