Nitrogen Decisions 2023
We have experienced two to three years of interesting weather conditions. La Nina conditions have prevailed over the last three years and during 2022 we had the unique situation of both a La Nina and Negative Indian Ocean Dipole. This resulted in good rainfall years and in most areas good yields (floods aside). The decision to fertilise with nitrogen was more obvious than most years (even with extremely high fertiliser prices).
As we roll into the 2023 cropping season, we have another set of interesting conditions. A large proportion of the cropping zone has good to high levels of sub soil moisture. This is like money in the bank and can help to provide a level of confidence in our crop yield lower limits. Stored soil water estimates from the out-of-crop period (Nov – March) show that we have some very good yield potentials. This is just from stored soil water.
For the 2023 season regardless of long-range forecasts, we need to be prepared to fertilise for our yield potential. This is the question many farmers and Agronomists are currently posing. Do we get prepared and plan to use nitrogen fertiliser to reach our economic and water limited yield potential or do we save our money and lock in a poor yield?
The timing of your nitrogen application can not always be based on perfect science. Quite often growers will have to apply N at any given opportunity prior to a rain front. Getting the N applied earlier than ideal is often a great management decision compared to waiting for ideal timing and not receiving a rainfall to apply urea.
The price of Urea is currently around $1.40/ kg N landed on farm but the canola price for example, has dropped to around $610/t. This time last year Urea was around $3.20/kg N but the canola price was up around $1000/t
Basic Return on Investment Calculations for urea and canola:
- 2022 Urea Return on Investment in Canola. $2.80 return for every dollar invested in urea.
- 2023 Urea Return on Investment in Canola. $4.40 return for every dollar invested in urea.
More Agronomists and farmers are now looking at products like Green Urea. Green Urea NV contains 46% nitrogen like standard urea but it also contains a urease inhibitor NBPT (N-(n-Butyl)-thiophosphoric triamide) to protect against volatilisation losses. NBPT slows the conversion of urea to ammonium which effectively reduces volatile losses for 14 days following application – until we receive rain. Green urea NV is around $1.50/kg N (standard Urea $1.40 / kg N).
We recommend to sit down with your agronomist as soon as possible and plan the following for your nitrogen strategy in 2023:
- Do your own calculations to determine stored soil water and potential yield
- Develop your own nitrogen budget
- Develop your nitrogen application strategy:
- Product (liquid, granular)
- Include Sulphur and Trace Elements in the plan where required