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Side-Dressing Fertilizer in Corn

The greatest need for nitrogen is from the V12 stage to the corn blister stage in a corn plant’s life.  Typically, corn is side-dressed at the 6 leaf (V6) stage; however any time prior to V12 will achieve management goals.

Soil type heavily influences the side-dressing decision.  High clay soils should have a planned split-application of nitrogen fertilizer due to the risk of nitrogen loss by denitrification.   Fine-textured sandy soils also have high risk of nitrogen loss due to leaching.

Corn at 2-3 leaf staging can withstand a broadcast application of urea.   Urea can used in older corn plants can cause fertilizer burn or plant death and the least favorable nitrogen choice.  Urea broadcast should be limited at 60 lb actual N/acre.  

By 4 leaf crop staging, nitrogen should be applied between the rows.  In older corn, anhydrous ammonia can be applied if the soil will seal up. The second most desirable application method is the application of UAN (28%) with a coulter which places fertilizer at an approximate 2 inches depth.  The third-best alternative is to apply UAN as a surface band using orifice nozzles between the rows.  Corn injury can be reduced if a stiff hose which drags or nearly drags on the ground is configured to the stream bar.

Fertilizer placed in every other row is sufficient.  Slow-release formulations should be avoided.

Resources: "Topdress and Sidedress Options for Solid-Seeded and Row Crops", Crop and Pest Report 6/6/13, D. Franzen and "Corn Side-dress Options", Crop and Pest Report 6/16/11, D. Franzen.

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