Managing nitrogen after a cover crop


Managing nitrogen after a cover crop

While cover crop residue can be valuable for soil health, the organic matter can tie up nitrogen and lead to its immobilization.

Tim Laatsch technical agronomy manager with Koch Agronomic Services says when using high carbon cover crops like cereal grains it’s important to terminate it at the right time.  “Number one, the herbicide is going to be more effective,” he says.  “But secondly, it is to limit the effects of immobilization.”

He tells Brownfield when nitrogen is immobilized, it’s not immediately available when plants need it during their early growth stages.  “Once those microbes have absorbed that nitrogen, it can take several weeks or months to make that nitrogen plan available again,” he says.  “So it may not be available to the cash crop in the same season.”

Laatsch says protecting nitrogen from volatilization is also critical.  “In a normal tilled scenario, we might experience 30 to 40 percent volatilization loss with surface-applied urea,” he says.  “When we get into high-residue systems it can be 10 percent more than that.”

He says nitrogen stabilizers can help slow the conversion of urea-based fertilizers. 

AUDIO: Tim Laatsch, technical agronomy manager with Koch Agronomic Services

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