Nitrogen is a key nutrient for corn crop production. Nitrogen is also a complex nutrient in that it changes many times. These changes determine whether the nitrogen becomes available to the corn crop primarily as nitrate N, or is lost to the environment. Changes include; denitrification, immobilization, volatilization and leaching. Denitrification occurs when soil bacteria use nitrate to breath instead of oxygen in the air. This process occurs most rapidly in warm, wet soils. Immobilization refers to the process in which nitrate and ammonium are taken up by soil organisms and therefore become unavailable to crops. Volatilization takes place when a liquid chemical like nitrogen in manure is converted into a vapor, which escapes into the atmosphere. Nitrogen is also known as a mobile nutrient and is prone to leaching. Leaching occurs when there’s too much water in the soil causing the excess water to drain below the root zone carrying within it soluble nitrate.
Pre-Sidress Soil Nitrogen Testing (PSNT) can be a valuable means of providing a corn crop with the right amount of nitrogen at the right time. The Cumberland County Conservation will be offering free PSNT starting at the end of May or early June. The testing will be done by interns, looking to gain real world work experience and providing them with some of the skills needed to be successful in starting their working career after college graduation. If you are interested in participating in the PSNT Program, please see the application and call Dylan Varner (717) 240-5360 to sign-up.