July 26, 2021

Nitrogen study answers hybrid questions

MONMOUTH, Ill. — Which one deserves special treatment? And if so, what should that special treatment look like?

Those questions, on a corn field level, were among the questions that a corn hybrid nitrogen study sought to answer at the Bayer Crop Science Learning Center at Monmouth.

The study was performed to find out if, and how, different corn hybrids responded to different levels of nitrogen and if those differences warrant managing hybrids differently within a farm setting.

“Nitrogen is one of the most popular topics for corn growers to talk about,” said Lance Tarochione, Asgrow/DeKalb technical agronomist whose territory covers western and central Illinois.

“This trial was one that I asked for based on question that we get from growers, perceptions that I know exist in growers’ minds, management strategies that are promoted by consultants and other agronomists who maybe differ with us in that they think there are significant differences in the way hybrids respond to management,” he said.

The Learning Center at Monmouth isn’t a stranger to research that goes beyond variety and yield and focuses on specific hybrids and questions about them.

“We do a lot of these types of management trials to see should all hybrids be managed the same or should they not? Everybody has high expectations. Farmers pay a lot for seed and they expect high performance from the seed that they buy. They expect us to be able to help them with management suggestions and recommendations on hybrids, so it’s more than just putting it in the ground and hoping it does well. They want to know by field and by hybrid, what is your recommendation for how I manage this product? Most traditional seed plots are not designed to answer that question,” Tarochione said.

Happy Returns

The study used eight different hybrids from 109-day to 116-day maturity. Researchers had zero pounds of nitrogen as an untreated check, a low rate of 120 pounds of nitrogen per acre and a high rate of 240 pound per acre, all applied pre-planting as a 32% UAN solution.

“We took a look at how did they respond from no nitrogen to 120 pounds and how did they respond going from 120 to 240. Then we said plugging in the cost of the nitrogen and the price of the corn, at the time we did this study the corn market was at $3.53 a bushel, we assumed 40 cents per pound for nitrogen and $3.53 for corn,” said Troy Coziahr, manager of the Bayer Crop Science Learning Center at Monmouth.

The study examined whether there were returns going from the low rate to the high rate, what the returns were and whether the returns were enough to change the way nitrogen is managed per hybrid across a farm setting.

“As you went later and later in maturity, we tended to get a little big better response. The response trended upward, as did the return,” Coziahr said.

He added that similar studies have been performed at the Learning Center in previous years.

“I would say that we can tease out some differences in these different hybrids, but when you take a look at the variables — and there are a lot of them when it comes to nitrogen and how corn responds to nitrogen in a given year and in a given environment — when you take all those variables into consideration from year to year, the differences by and large are not sufficient enough to really justify trying to manage different hybrids differently within a farm when it comes to nitrogen,” he said.

Coziahr said the hybrid response trial is one example of how researchers are changing how they look at nitrogen research.

“There are tools out there that can help you get close to that optimal rate. What we’ve moved more toward is are there ways we can place it differently within the row? Are there different timings of when we put it out there and how do we split it up? Those are the kinds of things that we are probably focusing more resources on rather than the rate,” he said.

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor