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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 2005-2007
Spring 2005 Value of Fluid Flexibility In Intensive Wheat Management Phil Needham Nitrogen is a key component to yield and accurate timing of the appropriate form of the nutrient can reap huge rewards. Fluid Journal 1 Nitrogen (N) is one of the most cost-effective inputs applied to a cereal crop. For every unit of N applied, there is an incremental increase in yield up until the point at which maximum yield is obtained. Our ability to predict the N requirement of a wheat crop has improved in recent years, but it is still only approximate. The wide range of soil types, mineralization values, rainfall amounts, and differences between varieties and their respective planting dates ensure that precision beyond the nearest 20-lb increment is difficult to achieve, even for a well-trained agronomist. Current efforts with regards to computer modeling and electronic plant sensing will enable us to match plant requirements with N recommendations more precisely in the future. Real-time plant sensing technology will continue to develop and as units are sold in increasing quantities, the price will become more affordable. Environmentally and economically, this is definitely the way forward and we should look at such technology closely. UAN the choice While consulting with wheat growers it became apparent that uniformity of nutrient applications and the actual timing of N products were limiting factors that were holding back wheat and other crop yields. Initially, many producers were using urea or anhydrous ammonia at or prior to seeding as their N sources. But, because of the differences in product quality, the general lack of equipment to Summary: Intensive cereal management began in England, France, and Germany in the 1970s. These systems have since spread east across Eastern Europe to Russia and west to the progressive areas of the U.S. As part of the process, many yield limiting factors had to be isolated and corrected to achieve success, but yields doubled in many of these regions in the span of little over a decade. In Kentucky, for example, the Opti-Crop management system was introduced and helped propel the state winter wheat yield average from 33 bu/A in the late 1980s to over 65 bu/A by the end of the 1990s. Growers there were able to significantly increase their profi ts and expand their farming operations as a result of the new management technology. Many factors have contributed to our growth in this region, but paying close attention to details, regular field inspections, accurate chemical and fertilizer applications, and constant follow-up with growers are the main ones. Another key aspect that we concentrate on is timing of product applications, especially nitrogen (N). N is a key component to yield and accurate timing of the appropriate form of the nutrient can reap huge rewards. Today about 90,000 acres of spring wheat have been brought under the Opti-Crop management system in the northern plains of the U.S., together with an established 100,000 acres of soft red winter wheat within the Ohio Valley, and yields continue to increase. uniformly apply the products evenly across fields and, most importantly, the inability to manage the spring crop canopy with fall-applied applications of N, the decision was made to convert growers to the use of liquid urea ammonium nitrate (UAN). UAN can be sourced in 28, 30 or 32 percent liquid N forms and is a combination of both ammonium nitrate and urea dissolved in water. The vast majority of Opti-Crop growers between Tennessee and North Dakota uses a liquid-based N program. The switch was quick, painless and well received. Most of our customers already had access to large trailed or self-propelled sprayers that could be equipped with streamer bars to deliver UAN postemergence to wheat without signifi cant problems with leaf scorch. The specifi c application of N depended on the number of plants per square yard, plant size, residual N levels, overall plant health, and expected yield. In general, N rates ranged from 20 to 40 gallons/A of UAN. Achieving precision To make precise N recommendations, three factors must be understood: • Crop demand • Soil N supply • Efficiency of fertilizer uptake. Application uniformity is more critical than actual form of N used in the spring. For example, urea is a good product, but if it is streaked with a spinner truck, then the value of the application may be significantly reduced. Because large air trucks damage wheat after green-up in the spring, we
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