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The Magic of a Perfectly Timed Nitrogen Application

Austin Delano | Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine. To subscribe, click here.

Timing your nitrogen fertilizer application to when the conditions best allow and the plants can best use specific nutrients can literally mean tons more forage per acre. 

food plot forage

Most food plot farmers fertilize at or before planting time and most will apply their N, P and K together in a blended, granular fertilizer. These photos show how important it can be to apply specific nutrients separately and at different times. In this case no fertilizer was applied at planting time and only nitrogen was applied weeks after planting, after the root systems would be better able to utilize the product.

food plot protector

fertilized plot protector

The plot in the photos was getting murdered and wasn’t able to put out yield like it should because of browse pressure. In this case we put up P2 Plot Protector and applied 34-0-0 at 100 pounds per acre. There was only eight days in between pictures!

If we would have fertilized at planting time we likely would have lost almost all of our nitrogen efficiency due to a seven week drought after planting. Instead, we waited until temperatures and humidity dropped and the plot received a good rain to catch up.

In this case, once the Winter Bulbs & Sugar Beets were established and had a decent root system, the nitrogen fertilizer application was much more efficiently used by the plants and none was lost to humidity or volatilization. Young brassicas were getting hammered in the small plot and without an intervention, there was likely only a few weeks of forage left. Catching the heavy browse and putting up the P2 while there is still some growing-weather left, along with a properly timed nitrogen application will increase the amount of forage the plot produces by tenfold. The lack of larger openings on this paper company lease requires frequent attention on the smaller plots if you want to have food available during the November through December time period.

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