Winter cereals could benefit from a little-used type of nitrogen

  • A rarely used form of nitrogen could assist in bringing waterlogged or saturated winter cereals back into contention, suggests ‘smart’ fertiliser pioneer Levity Crop Science

Application of an amine nitrogen reflects research that shows not all nitrogen is equal as far as crops are concerned.

“Most available soil nitrogen is in the nitrate form,” says Nigel Lyster, Levity’s UK business manager. “Regardless of the type of N applied, it’s always set upon by soil bacteria and converted into nitrate.

“However, plants exhibit particular physiological responses when they access different forms of N.

“Amine nitrogen is distinct because it is more easily metabolised by the plant, needing 12 times less energy. It also stimulates the production of cytokinins, plant hormones that stimulate root development and branching.”

Amine’s low energy requirement suits plants recovering from stress, whereas nitrates’ high energy demand requires high-functioning photosynthesis. That’s rarely the case in stressed plants, as their ability to absorb CO2 is impaired. But it’s the root stimulation that is particularly valuable as a post-flooding remedy, says Nigel.

“Flooding is essentially an aberration in soil moisture: it rises quickly and usually recedes quickly. However, trouble comes when soil has been saturated for a longer period. The plant roots have got used to where the water is; once it recedes, ironically, plants can struggle to find enough moisture because the roots can’t follow the water quickly enough.”

Amine nitrogen, explains Nigel, with its cytokinin-stimulating effects, is highly effective at creating root growth, improving tillering and increasing chlorophyll levels at a low energy cost to the plant.

In plants supplied with amine photosynthesis has been observed at higher levels than seen with standard nitrogen, Nigel points out, which should prove a much-needed boost for struggling crops.

Levity has addressed one of the main drawbacks of amine nitrogen – that soil bacteria quickly convert it into nitrate – with a special stabilised formulation. The LimiN technology, which features in the company’s Lono range, uses a chemical bonding mechanism (rather than the inhibitors that are soon to be used with all urea products) to create SAN – stabilised amine nitrogen. 

“SAN is invisible to soil bacteria,” says Nigel, “meaning the plant can access N in an amine form and use its own growth partitioning mechanisms to stimulate root growth at the appropriate time.”

A further appeal of Levity’s SAN range is its co-formulated options containing essential micronutrients. 

“It’s highly likely, given the water levels we’ve seen and their duration, that many fields will have suffered nutrient leaching. That’s a further blow to crops already experiencing nutrient absorption difficulties from the flooding.

“For example, Elona – featuring manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc, alongside SAN – will, when applied foliarly, sustain a previously waterlogged crop’s metabolism and make up for the roots’ inability to deliver the full nutrient requirements,” advises Nigel.

“Growers report that SAN is a lot safer on the crop than foliar urea, which is a useful observation bearing in mind the increased sensitivity of stressed crops.”

SAN applications can start as early as the three-leaf stage, Nigel says.

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