Another consequence of this year’s drought is the amount of unused nitrogen remaining in the soil. According to Purdue Extension corn specialist Bob Nielsen as we go through the fall and winter – that nitrogen could leach or denitrify. “That would cause us to potentially contribute to more nitrate contamination of our water or simply more greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.
As growers look to the short-term – there is an option available to them to reduce nitrogen loss.
That, Nielsen says, is utilizing cover crops. “If we can get some grassy type cover crops, like oats or wheat, established this fall – they will take up some of that soil nitrogen and store it in the tissue,” he says. “As that becomes available in the next year – we might be able to take advantage of this year’s nitrogen.”
Aside from planting cover crops – Nielsen tells Brownfield there is not much else growers can do to protect the unused nitrogen.