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Protein Enhancement Recipe (06/09/16)

Flag leaves are emerged in many early seeded spring wheat fields, so one of the upcoming questions many of you will receive will center around strategies for protein enhancement.

Protein Enhancement Recipe

Flag leaves are emerged in many early seeded spring wheat fields, so one of the upcoming questions many of you will receive will center around strategies for protein enhancement. It is unknown what protein premiums might be offered at harvest for the 2016 crop. The premium usually is based on what the protein level of the crop might be. If the protein is anticipated to be lower, a higher dockage for lower than 14% protein will be imposed and a greater premium for higher protein will be offered. If the decision is made to try to increase protein, the most efficient way to accomplish this is to apply 30 pounds N per acre (10 gallon of UAN + 10 gallon water) immediately post anthesis before the wheat berry starts to become milky. Apply with flat fan nozzles broadcast over the plants during the cool of the day, usually from just before daybreak until it becomes hot. If the day is cloudy, and temperatures are in the 50’s to 60’s degrees F, the sprayer could likely run all day. Expect some leaf burning, but at this growth stage the burning does not contribute to yield loss, but don’t push it. Spraying all day in heat/drought stressed wheat when temps are 90 degrees is not a wise practice.

Reduced burning (again not an issue, but some growers don’t like the attention burning receives from neighbors I suppose) can be accomplished if the local supplier ‘melts’ urea to make a urea solution. In most cases, low burning or no burning results from using straight urea compared to UAN. However, last year in the Bismarck area and in Manitoba, fields were severely burned from urea solution application. This would probably be the result of biuret contamination of the urea used to make the solution. Biuret is a byproduct of the urea manufacturing process when the process is poorly regulated. Urea is a worldwide commodity. Although US and Canadian manufacturers do a good job of keeping biuret content of urea low (less than 0.2%), the same might not be true from offshore sources. There are few laboratories in the region that test fertilizer for biuret. One laboratory I have found can test for biuret at $45 per sample. The contact information is below. The turn-around time for this test is 3-5 business days. This is not an endorsement for the lab, but it is the only lab I am aware of in the area that tests for biuret. If anyone has a lead on other regional labs that test for biuret, I would be interested to know and I can distribute the information through the Ag-Dakota list-serve.

Midwest Laboratories

13611 B Street

Omaha, NE 68144

402-334-7770

It is also important to explain that there are a number of products that are slow-release urea liquid fertilizers that claim great efficiency over UAN or urea solution. Instead of 30 pounds N per acre, which is required for ½ to 1% protein gain, they claim that 1-3 gallons per acre (2.5 to 7.5 pounds N per acre) of their product will accomplish the same task. This is untrue. For data on several of these products in recent NDSU studies, see https://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/soils/pdfs/foliarNreport.pdf . These slow release products have no more foliar efficiency than UAN.

Dave Franzen

NDSU Extension Soil Specialist

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