Nitrogen Management in Farming

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

Nitrogen is naturally occurring element essential for all living beings. It is a compound of all amino acids, and the largest constituent of the Earth atmosphere as inorganic nitrogen gas (N2), which comprises about 80%. In gas form, nitrogen is nonreactive and unusable to plants, so it must go through the conversion process, such as Rhizobium bacteria conversion, to become available to the plants. Plants absorb nitrogen from the soil through their roots, in organic form as an amino acid, nitrate (NO3-), nitrite (NO2-) and ammonium ions (NH4+).

Nitrogen is considered as a mineral element that is most demanded by plants, thus representing largest input in crop production management. It is the most difficult input to manage due to its changes in form, chemistry and locations.

Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most critical inputs in farming. Its importance is highlighted in years when excess rainfall leads to nitrogen deficiencies and yield reductions. Under prolonged wet field conditions and warm temperatures, nitrogen can be lost from the soil. Losses may be moderate or severe, depending on the form of nitrogen fertilizer applied and the extent of wet, warm conditions that favor its loss. All that leads to greater applications of nitrogen fertilizers, thus affecting the soil, environment and plants negatively. Higher applications of nitrogen lead also to higher farming costs.


Farmer fertilizes his crop after sowing

Excess nitrogen remains in the soil and freely moves into water resources or into the atmosphere causing nitrogen pollution. It’s emerging as one of the most important environmental issues of the 21st Century, contributing to air and water pollution, climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion.

How Farmers can Manage Nitrogen Applications and thus Reduce Farming Costs?

The goal is to deliver enough nitrogen to the crop to optimize yield and profitability while losses to water and air are minimized. For such successful nitrogen management practice there are several recommendations, which include:

  • Application timing - apply nitrogen as close as possible to the period of rapid crop uptake
  • Application rate - the amount of nitrogen needed to optimize crop yield often differs significantly from field to field and from one part of a field to another. To reduce over-application and losses of nitrogen, farmers has started to use precision farming technology
  • Nitrogen sources - choose a nitrogen fertilizer source based on timing, fertilizer application methods or placement (which nitrogen form and rate farmers will use mostly depends on crop type and period of application
  • Evenness of application - uneven over- or under-application can result in significant yield loss. Nitrogen source and application equipment are key determining factors.
  • Application methods and placement - choice of method and placement depends on the nitrogen source
  • Other factors - geographic location, soil type, residue level, expected rainfall, temperature and soil moisture levels

The key is to apply nitrogen as close as possible to the period of rapid uptake of a certain crop in the amount that is optimal for quality yield. Also, uneven fertilization can cause significant yield loss which can be prevented by using quality equipment. Using of new farming technologies such as precision farming and farm management system for tracking of whole crop production, allow farmers to enhance their farming. Farm management system Agrivi gives farmers an insight into profitability and productivity of their farm, thus tracking spent quantities of fertilizers per fields and crop productions, with related cost.




Field analytics in Agrivi farm management system

In Field analytics module, they can also track used quantities of each nutrient per fertilizers, crop productions, and fields. With only one click, they can see which field is higher or lower in fertilizers and related nutrients.

Use Agrivi to manage the optimal amount of nitrogen applied to your plants.