Increase Nutrient Use Efficiency With Fertigation
There are many ways to apply fertilizer inputs to growing crops. If the crop is irrigated, fertigation is an effective manner to apply some nutrients for crops to use throughout the growing season. Fertigation is a fertilizer application method in which dissolved fertilizers are delivered through the irrigation system. Common nutrients applied via fertigation include nitrogen as urea ammonium nitrate solution, sulfur as ammonium thiosulfate, or potassium as potassium thiosulfate (e.g. Nucleus 0-0-21). In addition, micronutrients such as zinc in an EDTA-chelated form (e.g. Kickstand Zinc 7%) can also be applied via fertigation. Some nutrient formulations and mixtures are not usually applied through fertigation due to potential corrosiveness to equipment or chemical reactions due to irrigation water pH and hard water cations, etc.
One advantage to fertigation, compared to applying fertilizer with conventional ground application equipment, is the ability to apply nutrients at critical periods of crop demand without having to traverse the field. This reduces compaction and crop damage, saving time and labor, and reducing fuel and equipment costs. Additionally, groundwater contamination is less likely with fertigation because less fertilizer is applied at any given time, and the application can correspond to the peak crop requirements.
With any fertilizer placement application, there may be some disadvantages. With fertigation, the fertilizer solution enters the soil where chemical dynamics, such as nutrient tie-up and possible nitrogen leaching may be a significant issue, especially in low organic matter, sandy soils. To help soil-applied fertilizers be more efficient, the addition of liquid Hydra-Hume to the fertigation mixture is a great choice.
Comprehensive field research trials have shown the value of adding Hydra-Hume to nitrogen fertilizers. In a three-year study conducted from 2013 – 2015 with South Dakota State University, Hydra-Hume consistently showed a 15% increase in Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) by retaining nitrate-nitrogen in the soil with urea and UAN fertilizers. This was demonstrated by attaining the same corn yields with 15% less nitrogen-based fertilizer plus Hydra-Hume (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Hydra-Hume maximizes fertilizer efficiency by holding major plant nutrients in a molecular form which reduces their solubility in water. These binding processes reduce leaching nitrogen into the subsoil and help prevent volatilization into the atmosphere. Hydra-Hume is easily mixed with most liquid fertilizer mixtures and injected directly into irrigation water. The addition of Hydra-Hume provides superior results in several ways including (1) reducing the potential for nutrient interaction, tie-up, and leaching of nitrate and sulfate and (2) increasing the overall availability of applied nutrients to the crop.
- Sam Bartee, CCA/CAC, West Central Division Agronomist