Crop & Pest Report


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Protein Enhancement Recipe (06/21/18)

Early seeded spring wheat fields are beginning to head, so one of the upcoming questions many of you will have will concern strategies for increased protein.

Protein Enhancement Recipe

Early seeded spring wheat fields are beginning to head, so one of the upcoming questions many of you will have will concern strategies for increased protein. It is unknown what protein premiums might be offered at harvest for the 2018 crop. The premium usually is based on what the protein level of the USA wheat crop might be. If the protein is anticipated to be lower, a higher dockage for less than 14% protein will be imposed and a higher premium for greater 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 after flowering is completed on the main stem head (post anthesis and before the wheat seed 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 or ideally near dusk. If the day is cloudy, and temperatures are in the 50’s to 60’s degrees F, the sprayer could 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) 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, on rare occasions fields have been severely burned from urea solution application. This was probably the result of biuret contamination of the urea used to make the solution. Biuret is a byproduct of the urea manufacturing process when it is poorly controlled. 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. A publication from the International Plant Nutrition Institute states that urea with less than 1% biuret should be acceptable as a foliar source for most crops. However, very sensitive crops may require less than 0.3% biuret.

The contact information for the one laboratory that we know tests for biuret follows below. This is not an endorsement for the lab. If anyone has information from other regional labs that test for biuret, we would be interested to know and we can distribute the information through the Ag-Dakota list-serve. The turn-around time for a urea sample is 3-5 business days.


Midwest Laboratories

13611 B Street

Omaha, NE 68144


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 NDSU trials, please see . These slow release products have no greater foliar N efficiency compared to UAN.


Dave Franzen

Extension Soil Specialist




Greg Endres

Extension Cropping Systems Specialist

NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center


This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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