Pre-sidedress nitrate test
This article was originally published on June 1, 2012 and expired on July 1, 2012. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Although nitrogen loss potential has been very low this
year, people are asking University of Illinois assistant professor of crop sciences Fabián Fernández how much nitrogen they should apply at
sidedress and what tools are available to determine the amount needed.
The pre-sidedress nitrogen test (PSNT) is used to determine
the need for additional nitrogen. This test
measures the amount of nitrogen mineralized into plant-available forms from
organic nitrogen pools plus the amount of applied nitrogen still in the soil
(either from an earlier application or as carryover).
"This year, because of the low
nitrogen loss potential, performing the PSNT is probably not going to
provide information beyond what you already know regarding how much nitrogen is
still needed to provide a full rate," said
Growers who want to use the PSNT
should remember that the usefulness of the information it provides can
be heavily influenced by how the samples are collected, handled, and
"The PSNT is often more accurate
in high-yielding environments and in fields that have received manure or other
organic fertilizers in the recent past or that have had legume crops with high
nitrogen content, such as alfalfa," Fernández explained. When the value
is 25 ppm or more, there is a high probability that no additional nitrogen is
Soil samples should be collected when corn is in the 4th
to 6th leaf stage to a 1-foot depth at eight positions perpendicular
to the direction of the nitrogen applicator. "If you know the location of the
knife application, start collecting there, and then at one-eighth, one-fourth,
three-eighths, one-half, five-eighths, three-fourths, and seven-eighths the
distance between the rows," said Fernández.
If the location of the knife application is not known, start
with the corn row and use the same sampling strategy. "I suggest collecting at
a density of one sample per 10 acres," Fernández said. All eight cores should
be placed in the same sample bag. Because this is a large amount of soil, use
Once collection is completed, freeze or quickly air-dry the
sample if it cannot be delivered to the testing lab on the same day. Freezing
is easiest. To dry the sample, spread it on a paper, crush the cores, and place
a fan to circulate air and speed up the process. When sending the sample to the
lab, indicate on the package that it is for nitrate nitrogen analysis so the
lab knows to dry and grind the entire soil sample before taking a subsample for
If the lab results show PSNT test values of 25 ppm or
higher, there is no need for additional nitrogen. If values are 10 ppm or less,
a full rate of nitrogen is needed. For values between 25 and 10 ppm, adjust the
nitrogen application proportionally.
A more practical way to determine whether additional
nitrogen is needed is by using strip nitrogen applications (60 to 80 pounds of
nitrogen per acre) across the field to see if there is a response in growth or
level of greenness. Corn in the strips that is greener or growing better is an
indication that the rest of the field needs more nitrogen.
"The risk associated with this approach is that color
differences may not develop until corn is in the grain-fill period, at which
time it is too late to apply additional nitrogen," warns Fernández. Another
risk is that nitrogen needs significant amounts of rain to move it into the
root zone, and large rain events are less frequent later in the season.
To reiterate, this year there should be little uncertainty
on how much nitrogen still needs to be applied. The potential for nitrogen loss
due to weather conditions was minimal if the applications were done correctly.
Thus, if a full rate was already applied, additional nitrogen should not be
needed. "If you were planning to apply a portion of your nitrogen at sidedress,
then I recommend applying it now rather than waiting until later," said
Source: Russel Higgins, Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: July 1, 2012