How to Start Off Your 2022 Growing Season: Nitrogen Use Efficiency

March 2nd, 2021

It’s time to plan the planter. How much N do you need? We’re all for less.

Take stock of your current cover crop success and what contribution will likely come from that, as well as crop residues. Look at any N release estimate you have from soil tests, what compost and manure sources you’ll use, etc. This is the base of your N supply.

Not all forms of nitrogen are created equal.

Biotic soil nitrogen is more valuable pound for pound than any form you can apply. It is most efficient for plants to receive their nitrogen as amino acids and proteins directly from microbial metabolites in the living soil food web. The goal is to develop plant-soil-microbe communities and cropping systems that provide 100% of the N, and many other fertility requirements, year after year. This is an achievable goal and a regenerative management program will steer actively toward it over time, growing healthy plants to make healthy soil.

If biology is lacking, don't worry. Regenerate!​

But you’ve still got to grow a crop this year, using inputs as efficiently as possible. From a plant uptake, metabolism, water use, and yield perspective, the second most efficient form of nitrogen is urea. Then ammonium NH4 forms, with nitrate NO3 forms being the dead-last least efficient form of nitrogen to fertilize with. 

But no matter the N applied, it only remains in the soil when bound. The first step is to stabilize free N in the tank, by compounding it with humic substances like HumaCarb. Next, ensure that either your tank mix or your soil has adequate free sulfur to provide the 10:1 ratio required for protein synthesis. ATS, elemental sulfur, and sulfur bearing micronutrients are all good sources.

Most importantly, apply N so that it can be “mopped-up” and rapidly consumed, then converted by soil microbial populations into amino/protein nitrogen. This is the ideal stable, slow release, plant available fertilizer.


AEA’s Nitrogen Efficiency Program

1. Add HumaCarb® at 3% of total fertilizer volume.
2. Add ammonium thiosulfate (ATS) or other S source to achieve a 10:1 nitrogen to sulfur ratio in the finished solution.
3. Add Rejuvenate® at 3% of total solution of N compound.
4. Add Rebound Molybdenum® at 1-2 pint per acre.
5. Use Sap Analysis to monitor the nitrogen level throughout the growing season. Apply what is needed when needed.


For more information, check out our Webinar “The Impact of the Rhizophagy Cycle on Nitrogen Efficiency in Broadacre Crops” on the AEA YouTube channel.

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