Sponsored by The Andersons

A well-rounded nutrient management plan that considers a wide range of nutrients is advisable – however, nitrogen in organic systems often requires extra consideration to reach yield goals.

The drawbacks of nitrogen deficiency

Nitrogen deficiency adversely affects crop growth and yield and is the most common deficiency in corn production. Corn requires about 1 pound of nitrogen for every bushel of grain produced. If nitrogen supplies are not adequate during the season, deficiencies will present as chlorosis in lower leaves.

sunlight on growing corn plants

Nitrogen is mobile within the plant, so nitrogen from lower leaves will move within the plant to support new growth. As a result, inadequate supplies of nitrogen can cause stunted root growth, poor standability, and a decrease in photosynthetic activity.

Solutions to nitrogen deficiency

Planting cover crops and using nitrogen fertilizers are two methods farmers can use to alleviate the issue of nitrogen deficiency.

field of corn at night with stars above

Growing cover crops like peas, vetches, clovers, and beans can help provide nitrogen in the root zone. These types of legumes fix nitrogen from the air and make it available to plants and soil. These legumes form a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia in the soil, taking gaseous nitrogen and converting it to a form that plants can use. By using a legume cover crop, you can supplement some nitrogen to your crops to help them meet their nutrient needs. The longer legumes actively grow, the more pounds of nitrogen the plant can make.

Another method available to farmers looking to avoid nutrient deficiency during the growing season is to supplement the work of the cover crops by adding nitrogen fertilizer. Crops take up nitrogen in two forms: nitrate (NO3-) and ammonium (NH4+). Regardless of the type of nitrogen applied, the crop can only take it up in these two forms. If a fertilizer is applied in a different form, it must undergo a chemical reaction within the soil to become plant-available. Once nitrogen is taken up, the plant will benefit from improved chlorophyll production and increased protein content.

Organic producers in particular will be interested in finding OMRI-approved nitrogen sources, such as those that The Andersons supply. Learn more about these options for organic corn producers, here.