Why is it important to measure total nitrogen in your field?

 

Nitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for both animals and plants. Soils can naturally supply N to the plants but in most cases, this is not enough to ensure the development of a healthy crop. For this reason, applications of N fertilizers are crucial for good plant development and to achieve optimal crop yields. At AgroCares we provide services to easily assess soil quality status including the level of total N present in your field. Having access to this information enables better soil and fertilizer management considering each field and crop individually.

How effective is the application of N fertilizers?

Globally, the application of N fertilizers in agricultural soils is not an effective practice, as on average only 50 % of the applied N is taken up by plants. The rest is lost into the environment with several negative impacts such as eutrophication of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, soil acidification and groundwater pollution. As well as socioeconomic implications, including the negative economic impact on farmers’ profits and hampering of food security. In order to reduce these impacts and have optimal yields, efficient and sustainable use of fertilizers is necessary. For that it is key to understand the crop and soils needs, each crop has different N requirements, and each soil contains different levels of N.

Different forms of N: what is better to measure?

At AgroCares with our innovative technology, our global soil database and prediction models, we are able to provide within minutes a complete soil report with multiple parameters (e.g. total N, pH, clay content, etc). Total N measures all the different forms in which N is present in the soil: inorganic N (nitrate, nitrite and ammonium) and organic N. Knowing total N in the field, enables agricultural advisors and farmers to estimate the amount of N fertilizer that is required as well as the number of applications and timing.

Often farmers only analyse nitrate content in the soil and base their fertilizer application solely on this measurement. However, this is not a completely reliable measurement, because the concentration of nitrate in the soil is quite unstable. It can change within a day as a result of microbial activity in organic matter, increasing or decreasing its concentration. For this reason, the total N measurement is a better parameter to understand the soil N status and to further make fertilizer recommendations.

How to calculate the recommendation based on total N?

AgroCares applications can give specific recommendations on fertilizer use targeting the needs of each crop and field and considering those N dynamics. Different parameters are considered to calculate the amount of N fertilizer that needs to be applied. These include field size, target yield, the crop N uptake and the soils’ capacity to supply or fixate N.

The soils’ capacity to supply N is calculated based on the total N and is corrected considering two parameters. The actual N mineralization (N that will be available for crop uptake) and the N losses expressed as the N use efficiency (how much N is eventually taken up by the crop). Thus, our N fertilizer recommendations consider the total N measurement and its natural variability. Rapid in-field soil testing can help to increase the efficiency of fertilizers application and to minimize all the environmental and economic impacts mentioned.

Want to learn more about AgroCares technology and how it can help you to optimize the nutrient supply to your crops or the crops of your clients? Contact us now!