Food Plot Nitrogen Fertilizers - Does it matter?

FarmerDan

5 year old buck +
N, P, and K...and all the other micro elements. We've beat to depth the most complicated aspects of lime, liming materials and the impact of its application to plant production. Soil improvement? That too! And maybe we've done the same with fertilizer materials but I don't remember it - other than comments here and there when dissecting someone's soil test results. If there is this lack of "lime-like" conversation about fertilizer materials is it because we take it for granted? Or, is it soo complicated we choose not to discuss it?

Let me admit right here, right now for food plots I believe a deep dive into fertilizer isn't necessary! But let's hear what you think.

What got me thinking about this are the posts worried about loss of applied chemically sourced nitrogen (N). Think urea. My other curiosity is recommending against applying nitrogen to legumes because it encourages weed and/or unwanted grass growth. Hang on, hang on! I'll get to an explanation, but not today.

I think you can Google "nitrogen in crop production to read about the science. What value can I added (Dan asked himself)? There's a big gap between the science and putting that science into action. Then there's the credibility on both sides of that discussion. You are encouraged to question mine. I would enjoy your company!

So Nitrogen it is! I don't think there's any debate about it being the least soil persistent of the macro nutrients - and probably the micros as well. The interesting aspect is what determines that time frame. How long will the nitrogen remain in the plant rootzone? If you want to consider these things.

And then there's the price / cost problem. Every couple of decades the situation changes. It looks like we're out of the date and heading for the first turn.

As a start I'll leave it with a couple of questions about nitrogen fertilizer?
1. Dumb question but from a hunt-ability perspective why fertilizer, especially nitrogen? What's your expected outcome and if you measure it what's the measure?
2. If you use chemical fertilizers do you buy bags or bulk? Dry or liquid? Does the material source of N matter to you? Should have asked this one first - if you buy fertilizer do you know or cares about the N source?
3. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals "Don't care at all" and 10 means "I'm extremely concerned" how do you think about the timing of nitrogen applications? That wasn't worded very well so humor me, please?
 

PatinPA

5 year old buck +
Dan I have nothing to add because I know nothing about fertilizer applications. My plots are small so I just spread around a little 10-10-10 which satisfies my requirements according to my soil tests. Interested in seeing what others have to say though.
 

Ben.MN/WI

5 year old buck +
I typically have a mix of soybeans, clover, brassicas and corn plots. I use extended release urea (I really don't know if that's different than regular urea, but it sounds good) for the brassicas and corn. I buy it in bulk from a local fertilizer source and it comes in large tote sacks that hold up to 1000 pounds or so. I broadcast spread the fertilizer, then disk or dig it in and then plant. It works great and I can easily tell which areas I either over or under applied fertilizer since there is a large difference in plant appearance.

My clover and soybean plots keep the deer around through the rut, but they are typically gone in late November. The brassicas and corn keep the deer in the area for my late season hunts and the urea helps improve the yield.
 

gunfun13

5 year old buck +
1. Dumb question but from a hunt-ability perspective why fertilizer, especially nitrogen? What's your expected outcome and if you measure it what's the measure? Productive and attractive plots. While I don't do any specific testing, I don't think anyone would argue against a well fertilized plot producing more and more attractive forage than an unfertilized plot, especially one in poor soil like I'm dealing with. I believe it'll bring in more deer for a longer period of time.
2. If you use chemical fertilizers do you buy bags or bulk? Dry or liquid? Does the material source of N matter to you? Should have asked this one first - if you buy fertilizer do you know or cares about the N source? Bags of dry fertilizer. No, I don't really care about the source...for me currently it's just a function of convenience, cost, and available equipment.
3. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals "Don't care at all" and 10 means "I'm extremely concerned" how do you think about the timing of nitrogen applications? That wasn't worded very well so humor me, please? 7. I try to do most of my N at time of planting, but because I have very low CEC that doesn't always work out the best. For some heavy N requirement crops like corn and Sorghum screening, I'll top dress urea before rain, sometimes multiple times per crop. I concern myself with timing as I'm aware that it volatizes, and don't want to waste my money and effort. But if I only have a short window in my schedule to do it and no rain is forecasted, I'll probably do it anyways and hope for the best.
 

Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
N, P, and K...and all the other micro elements. We've beat to depth the most complicated aspects of lime, liming materials and the impact of its application to plant production. Soil improvement? That too! And maybe we've done the same with fertilizer materials but I don't remember it - other than comments here and there when dissecting someone's soil test results. If there is this lack of "lime-like" conversation about fertilizer materials is it because we take it for granted? Or, is it soo complicated we choose not to discuss it?

Let me admit right here, right now for food plots I believe a deep dive into fertilizer isn't necessary! But let's hear what you think.

What got me thinking about this are the posts worried about loss of applied chemically sourced nitrogen (N). Think urea. My other curiosity is recommending against applying nitrogen to legumes because it encourages weed and/or unwanted grass growth. Hang on, hang on! I'll get to an explanation, but not today.

I think you can Google "nitrogen in crop production to read about the science. What value can I added (Dan asked himself)? There's a big gap between the science and putting that science into action. Then there's the credibility on both sides of that discussion. You are encouraged to question mine. I would enjoy your company!

So Nitrogen it is! I don't think there's any debate about it being the least soil persistent of the macro nutrients - and probably the micros as well. The interesting aspect is what determines that time frame. How long will the nitrogen remain in the plant rootzone? If you want to consider these things.

And then there's the price / cost problem. Every couple of decades the situation changes. It looks like we're out of the date and heading for the first turn.

As a start I'll leave it with a couple of questions about nitrogen fertilizer?
1. Dumb question but from a hunt-ability perspective why fertilizer, especially nitrogen? What's your expected outcome and if you measure it what's the measure?
2. If you use chemical fertilizers do you buy bags or bulk? Dry or liquid? Does the material source of N matter to you? Should have asked this one first - if you buy fertilizer do you know or cares about the N source?
3. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals "Don't care at all" and 10 means "I'm extremely concerned" how do you think about the timing of nitrogen applications? That wasn't worded very well so humor me, please?

1. Dumb question but from a hunt-ability perspective why fertilizer, especially nitrogen? What's your expected outcome and if you measure it what's the measure?
To stimulate and help insure reasonable size of forage and crop production volume.

2. If you use chemical fertilizers do you buy bags or bulk? Dry or liquid? Does the material source of N matter to you? Should have asked this one first - if you buy fertilizer do you know or cares about the N source?
I use 50 lbs bags of Urea 40-0-0 or 10-10-10. Don't really care about source as i buy from my local feed mill so assume I am getting acceptable quality and competitive price. I used pelletized as i do
not know how to or am set-up for liquid application.


3. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals "Don't care at all" and 10 means "I'm extremely concerned" how do you think about the timing of nitrogen applications? That wasn't worded very well so humor me, please?
Probably a 8 for Urea as it has a short self life once applied. For granular 10-10-10 somewhere around 3.

On half my fields, I really need to use nitrogen as they are deficient. The problem is they are also low in OM. The quandary is ... i need to grow more OM (Sudan grass, sorghum, etc.) to increase OM, but to get growth it requires adding nitrogen ... with sandy loam soils, they require OM in them to hold the nitrogen. I am struggling with getting the volume of OM mass to get the increased OM I need. 😳
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
I use to farm, so I know enough to be dangerous. Food plotting I just try to get close.

P&K, I would test every 3 years, and fertilize to those tests, once I got the numbers where I wanted, it didnt take much P&K to maintain the field, slow to amend, slow to lose the nutrients.

On the farm, Nitrogen I would only apply for corn, or if I was planning on a good cereal crop for harvest.

Food plots, Nitrogen is a must for corn, or large bulb growth from brasicas. But you can still get small bulb growth without, and sometimes many smaller bulbs is a better draw then less large bulbs. Cereal grains, I dont bother adding N in a food plot.

Food plotting, I would buy 46-0-0 by the bag, because my plots are small, I would apply a smaller portion right after planting, but before a rain, then about 3 weeks later, or when the plants are established, I would apply a full dose.

I have applied 32-0-0 slow release, but I dont think it worked as well as applying at 2 different dose.

I think the timing of the application is very important if using 46-0-0, before a rain, and when the seed is ready to take off, usually about 3 weeks after planting.
 

PatinPA

5 year old buck +
On half my fields, I really need to use nitrogen as they are deficient. The problem is they are also low in OM. The quandary is ... i need to grow more OM (Sudan grass, sorghum, etc.) to increase OM, but to get growth it requires adding nitrogen ... with sandy loam soils, they require OM in them to hold the nitrogen. I am struggling with getting the volume of OM mass to get the increased OM I need. 😳
That's my biggest problem too. I just have a really thin soil profile in general in the woods. Maybe 2-3" then literally nothing but rocks. It's tough for me to grow anything in the summer other than weeds because it dries out so quickly. My rye from the fall which grows well in the fall is typically pretty sparse in the spring. Usually have a nice patch of smart weed by the fall, unfortunately it doesn't amount to much when you spray it or mow it. I've also noticed that I get better growth in the fall in the shaded area of my main plot, I think because it helps to retain water better.
 
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bueller

Moderator
1. Dumb question but from a hunt-ability perspective why fertilizer, especially nitrogen? What's your expected outcome and if you measure it what's the measure? Healthier plots that provide more tonnage. On my sand, nitrogen has a very noticeable effect on everything from buckwheat to rye, both of which are said to need no fertilizer on more fertile soils. Plants go from yellow and stunted to deep green and much much larger when the see nitrogen.
2. If you use chemical fertilizers do you buy bags or bulk? Dry or liquid? Does the material source of N matter to you? Should have asked this one first - if you buy fertilizer do you know or cares about the N source? Dry fertilizer in bags. Fast acting urea preferred as I like to top dress a few weeks after plants have established. Source? Whatever the coop or local store has available, price matters.
3. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals "Don't care at all" and 10 means "I'm extremely concerned" how do you think about the timing of nitrogen applications? That wasn't worded very well so humor me, please? 10. I am well aware of volatilization and leaching and don't have the equipment to cover fertilizer very well at the time of planting and have sandy soil prone to leaching. I try really hard to broadcast nitrogen fertilizer over plots when they are a couple weeks old and have 3-4 inches of growth, when more than one rain event is in the forecast in the following 72 hours. Too easy to miss the single storm and go a week or more with no precipitation= volatilization. And too much rain after planting but before plants are growing= leaching.
 

Maddog66

5 year old buck +
I buy bagged fertilizer. I apply nitrogen after a few weeks of growth to the things that need it and then maybe a light shot a little later if I see yellowing.

I actually thought most commercial nitrogen was derived from Nat Gas? Can you expound on the different sources and their usefulness in plotting?

My related question is……..If you get a soil test and then amend your soil exactly as it recommends for the intended crop, without any thought at all to the sources of it, is it possible to do “harm”?
 

FarmerDan

5 year old buck +
I buy bagged fertilizer. I apply nitrogen after a few weeks of growth to the things that need it and then maybe a light shot a little later if I see yellowing.

I actually thought most commercial nitrogen was derived from Nat Gas? Can you expound on the different sources and their usefulness in plotting?

My related question is……..If you get a soil test and then amend your soil exactly as it recommends for the intended crop, without any thought at all to the sources of it, is it possible to do “harm”?
I've kinda let this post slide as I'm not sure how valuable a dive into the rabbit hole might be. So, thanks for the question. I'm not a chemist and the actual "how" of production of different synthetic nitrogen fertilizers I only understand from reading. Hydrogen gas is the starting point and most of it does come from natural gas although there are other minor sources. Atmospheric nitrogen is reacted with the hydrogen to form ammonia.

Again, just dealing here with synthetic nitrogen. There are different forms of fertilizer - liquid & dry for example - each with different N-P-K analyses. Everyone has its place and understanding the place is essential in production agriculture. For food plots? I guess its economics and preference. This conversation can get real long in a hurry!

Urea (46-0-0), ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) and ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24) are the top three dry fertilizers by tonnage sold.
I guess everyone here is familiar with urea. So far it has been the cheapest form of dry-form nitrogen, but rising natural gas prices are going to crimp it's style.
Ammonium nitrate was the preferred N source for me back before it became a regulated explosive.
Ammonium sulfate is a great way to add nitrogen and sulfur to you soil.

And there's anhydrous ammonia, a gaseous liquid (or is it the other way around) which I doubt anyone uses for food plots.

The ammoniated phosphorous fertilizers like MAP (mono-ammonium phosphate) and DAP (diammonium phosphate) have a place, too.
MAP analysis is 10% nitrogen, 52% phosphorous (more or less) - 10-52-0
DAP is 18% N, 46% P - 18-46-0. Sometimes they are used in their native form but mostly are blended with other N, P, and K sources for bulk application or are bagged as a standard analysis fertilize like 10-10-10 or 19-19-19.

How to say this? I guess we all know soil nitrogen doesn't stay in the soil like phosphorous and potassium. Over some short period of time (weeks and/or months and NOT days) it will either be used by plants, washed out of the soil (down) or lost into the air. The number of weeks and months is dependent not only on the type of N fertilizer but also on soil type, air and soil temperature, relative humidity, rainfall amounts and the relative dryness of the soil at the time of application.

The dramatic concern about loss of urea based N is much overblown in my opinion. There's much to consider, too much for this post. The worst possible losses occur at extremely high temperatures, high relative humidity and low soil moistures - a time when you are not interested in N application! The worst case loss I've seen documented in research is 25%. If you back it off to more average environment considerations urea losses are comparable to other N sources.

This is a crop /food production reference - I've read that only half of the world's crops are fertilized with any N source and that half of the N applied in crop production is lost. Point is, you can try to manage some of the loss, but eventually you will lose.

The other problem with nitrogen fertilizers is the soil acidification. But without getting into it too deep it's just a factor that needs to be managed. I hate to use the worst-to-best comparison. While the differences between fertilizers is a consideration it's just another thing to manage.

To your question about harm? I don't know the answer because it's difficult to determine the meaning of harm. If there's debate about synthetic fertilizers versus organics my personal opinion is there are pluses and minuses to each approach. At the grocery I buy organic tomatoes and non-organic apples ... or vice versa. It drives the checkout person crazy. He/she will say, "Do you know your apples are organic and your tomatoes are not?" My response is I support all kinds of agricultural (or food plot) production.

We can go deeper. Somebody else offer an observation or perception?
 
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FarmerDan

5 year old buck +
I buy bagged fertilizer. I apply nitrogen after a few weeks of growth to the things that need it and then maybe a light shot a little later if I see yellowing.

I actually thought most commercial nitrogen was derived from Nat Gas? Can you expound on the different sources and their usefulness in plotting?

My related question is……..If you get a soil test and then amend your soil exactly as it recommends for the intended crop, without any thought at all to the sources of it, is it possible to do “harm”?
To get straight to your questions.
Natural gas - yes.
Different sources and usefulness in plotting? I don't think it matters.
Possible to do harm? No.
 

omicron1792

5 year old buck +
To get straight to your questions.
Natural gas - yes.
Different sources and usefulness in plotting? I don't think it matters.
Possible to do harm? No.
 

omicron1792

5 year old buck +

omicron1792

5 year old buck +
To get straight to your questions.
Natural gas - yes.
Different sources and usefulness in plotting? I don't think it matters.
Possible to do harm? No.
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
N, P, and K...and all the other micro elements. We've beat to depth the most complicated aspects of lime, liming materials and the impact of its application to plant production. Soil improvement? That too! And maybe we've done the same with fertilizer materials but I don't remember it - other than comments here and there when dissecting someone's soil test results. If there is this lack of "lime-like" conversation about fertilizer materials is it because we take it for granted? Or, is it soo complicated we choose not to discuss it?

Let me admit right here, right now for food plots I believe a deep dive into fertilizer isn't necessary! But let's hear what you think.

What got me thinking about this are the posts worried about loss of applied chemically sourced nitrogen (N). Think urea. My other curiosity is recommending against applying nitrogen to legumes because it encourages weed and/or unwanted grass growth. Hang on, hang on! I'll get to an explanation, but not today.

I think you can Google "nitrogen in crop production to read about the science. What value can I added (Dan asked himself)? There's a big gap between the science and putting that science into action. Then there's the credibility on both sides of that discussion. You are encouraged to question mine. I would enjoy your company!

So Nitrogen it is! I don't think there's any debate about it being the least soil persistent of the macro nutrients - and probably the micros as well. The interesting aspect is what determines that time frame. How long will the nitrogen remain in the plant rootzone? If you want to consider these things.

And then there's the price / cost problem. Every couple of decades the situation changes. It looks like we're out of the date and heading for the first turn.

As a start I'll leave it with a couple of questions about nitrogen fertilizer?
1. Dumb question but from a hunt-ability perspective why fertilizer, especially nitrogen? What's your expected outcome and if you measure it what's the measure?
2. If you use chemical fertilizers do you buy bags or bulk? Dry or liquid? Does the material source of N matter to you? Should have asked this one first - if you buy fertilizer do you know or cares about the N source?
3. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals "Don't care at all" and 10 means "I'm extremely concerned" how do you think about the timing of nitrogen applications? That wasn't worded very well so humor me, please?

1. I stopped using commercial fertilizer quite a few years ago as I come to the same conclusion that it has no measurable impact on hunting or the health of my deer.
2. Back when I did use commercial fertilizer (and doing traditional tillage), I used MAP and Potash in bulk. My coop would mix them in the ratio I wanted. I never used N intentionally, although there is a small percentage of N in MAP. Most of my N has always come from mixing and rotating legumes.
3. Since I no longer use any fertilizer, I guess I'm a 1 on your scale for question 3.

I've significantly reduced my cost by eliminating tillage and fertilizer. This has allowed me to provide more acreage in plots as well as diverting some of the savings to permaculture and such.

Thanks,

Jack
 

Howboutthemdawgs

5 year old buck +
Have never fertilized a food plot. I’m sure my 1/2 acre to 2 acre plots are just fine without wasting money on that stuff.
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
If I don’t use N with brassicas, I don’t get any bulb growth. And I even plant a mix of clover in the food plots.
 

omicron1792

5 year old buck +
If I don’t use N with brassicas, I don’t get any bulb growth. And I even plant a mix of clover in the food plots.
I think it wouldn’t matter what you plant with the brassica, it’s what you had growing before.
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
I think it wouldn’t matter what you plant with the brassica, it’s what you had growing before.


I have a pretty basic rotation, clover and winter rye in about every plot, and about every other year I rotate in turnips, radish and chicory.
 
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