About 15 years ago, I was talking to a farmer who said those exact words to me based on some trial work over the previous five years. He was part of a small group of farmers who would run the same trials on their farms each season just so they could learn from each other and compare notes. A few years earlier, the University of Minnesota had convinced these farmers to run nitrogen trials. The university’s belief, according to this farmer, was that farmers were using too much nitrogen. Here is how he described the results of their five years’ worth of trials.
“In a couple of the years, the university was right. We were able to cut back on nitrogen and still get the same yield. One year, we cut back N and lost a little yield, but what we lost was about what we saved in fertilizer expense, so it was a wash. The other 2 years, we cut back on N and it was terrible. We lost way more in each of those years than we ever saved on nitrogen over 5 years.”
You and I both know if you want to maximize corn yield, you can’t run short on nitrogen, not even for a single day. How do you balance that with the environmental issues with nitrogen, as well as the expense?