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2016 Nitrogen Trial – What Did We Learn This Year?

At our home farm, again this year, we conducted a corn nitrogen rate trial, looking at various nitrogen rates.  We compared starter fertilizer only with 3 different sidedress rates.  Our corn was planted May 9, and the sidedress was applied July 2 by Colin Clark of Precision Applicators with Y-Drops.  The crop stage at sidedress time was V-10.  Between planting and sidedress, our home farm received 4.15 inches of precipitation.

The following is a breakdown of the 4 treatments, associated costs, yields and net returns (excluding other production costs):


Total N

lbs / ac

N Cost / acre    (including app. costs)



Net $
Starter Only 47 $ 13.81 233.93 $ 1097.36


+32 gal UAN

143 $ 94.43 252.68 $ 1105.80


+42 gal UAN

173 $ 115.25 256.14 $ 1101.42


+50 gal UAN

197 $ 131.91 253.48 $ 1072.12

Additional Info:

Corn selling price = $ 4.75 / bu                                     

Starter Fertilizer Blend:   CAN   145 lb/ac                                                                                    

MAP     75 lbs/ac                                                                     

Potash 30 lbs/ac                                                     

blend total 250 lbs/ac                    

Starter Cost:  $ 644.32 / MT

UAN Cost $ 420/MT + $ 13/MT tank rental          

Each plot section = 0.6 acres    


Our home farm does receive frequent applications of both mushroom compost and hog manure, but neither were applied to this farm the previous year.  Organic matter in the trial area is 3.9 %.  As you can see from this trial, the best yield was achieved with 173 lbs of N supplied, but the most economical treatment was the 143 lb N rate. 

2016 was a favourable growing season for nitrogen utilization, with very little environmental loss, and good soil mineralization levels.  As this seasons trial demonstrates, over-applying N can quickly reduce your net return per acre.

Everyone knows, mother nature rules all when it comes to N management.  Soil type and precipitation received strongly influence rate of Nitrogen required in-season and amount of Nitrogen still available from your planting application at tasseling. If you have a balanced soil nutrient base and healthy soil biological activity your corn crop needs far less nitrogen applied than historically thought.  There is No magic Nitrogen recipe.  Each field is unique and each season is unique.