With increasing crop demand for nitrogen (N) fertiliser, what are the opportunities for increasing the efficiency of what we apply to cereals?

Are there efficiency gains from banding N at seeding compared to post seeding boom applications, and can banding N at the start of stem elongation give better results than streaming it onto the crop?

The advantages of banding N are mainly related to reduced potential for immobilisation losses, and to a lesser extent volatilisation – the risk of volatilisation being greater with urea.

On the other hand, N applied at seeding is more susceptible to leaching – in a leaching environment.

A trial on Scepter wheat at South Stirlings last year sought to compare the effectiveness of banding Flexi-N at seeding to streaming it on early post seeding, with another comparison of these methods at early stem elongation.

While the site was moderately (and profitably) responsive to N (with 151 kg N/ha lifting yields from 2.7 to 4.6 t/ha), there were no clear effects relating to either N placement of timing.

Compared to streaming Flexi-N, there was no agronomic benefit from banding N at seeding or at early stem elongation.

Why?

Most likely because there wasn’t enough stubble residue to tie up the N applied to the surface.

Compared to delaying the first application until the three leaf stage, banding Flexi-N at seeding was just as effective.

Why?

Conditions post seeding were relatively dry, so there was no risk of early leaching losses.

The benefits from banding Flexi-N are greatest where there are high stubble residues, and broadcast applications are uneven, or unavailable because they are not washed into the root zone.

Sure, banding N at seeding may be at susceptible to leaching, but that will only be in a leaching environment.

The risk of leaching losses needs to be weighed up against the risk of immobilisation losses and of course the logistics of any need to applying N over the season – particularly if high rates are required.

James Easton
By James Easton
- Senior Agronomist
James joined CSBP in 1988 and has over 30 years’ experience in agriculture.

James has been involved in Field Research through various roles as an Agricultural Officer, Area Manager, Regional Agronomist and Field Research Manager and is now Senior Agronomist. As Senior Agronomist he works with the CSBP Research and Agronomy teams to further our understanding of crop and pasture fertiliser requirements under constantly evolving farming systems and practices.

James is passionate about plant nutrition and sharing this knowledge with work colleagues and farmers as well as with the broader industry. 

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