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Plant, Then Sidedress

May 3, 2002
Wet soils this spring have delayed most field activities, particularly corn planting. Don't delay planting to wait until nitrogen fertilizer has been applied. Plant, then sidedress. Sidedressing can start as soon as the corn is planted, even before the corn is up if you can see the planter tracks to ensure that the nitrogen will be placed between the rows. There will be no danger of ammonia burn if the material is injected between the rows. If you are sidedressing, consider using injector knives every other row instead of every row. Research has shown that alternate-row nitrogen application is equally as effective as every-row application. Both ammonia and urea-ammonium nitrate solutions can be applied with the alternate-row technique. For more details on the use of alternate-row application, see the Illinois Agronomy Handbook at

If you use preplant ammonia, be sure to wait at least 5 days before planting. The greatest risk of ammonia damage occurs when ammonia is applied to a wet soil that dries rapidly. Insertion of a knife into wet soil creates a compaction zone along the knife track. The ammonia is then held in this zone, reducing the rate of conversion of ammonia to ammonium. When soils dry, the ammonia moves up the crack that is formed along the injection knife track. If the corn row is directly over the knife track, ammonia damage will occur.--Robert Hoeft

Author: Robert Hoeft

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