While the state of Alabama has modified its corn nitrogen recommendations this year to reflect “anticipated yields,” the basics of fertilization still apply, says Charles Mitchell, Auburn University Extension agronomist.

“There are basic strategies for dealing with rising fertilizer prices,” says Mitchell.

“Soil testing is No. 1 — don’t put it out if you don’t need it. Also, use legumes to get nitrogen if you’re in a forage situation, and use poultry litter where you can. Use the least expensive source of nitrogen, or the most economical source for your situation, and recycle nutrients wherever you can.”

In the past, Alabama corn fertilization recommendations have not used anticipated yields, he says.

“I’d rather not use the term ‘yield goals’ because everyone has high yield goals. For irrigated corn, where you know you’ll have at least 180 pounds per acre anticipated yield and probably higher, we went with a standard recommendation of 200 pounds per acre, along with a little bit more phosphate and potash.

“If yield potential is greater than 200 bushels per acre, apply up to 1.25 pounds of nitrogen per bushel of anticipated yield in multiple applications,” he says.

It’s important, says Mitchell, to replace the nutrients you remove from the land. “If you take off a ton of hay, you’re going to take off 50 pounds of nitrogen, 10 pounds of phosphate, and 40 pounds of potash.

“If you’re removing that from the land, you’ve got to put it back on. That’s the basis of our recommendation for a hay crop. Very few people can make 8 tons, but if you make 8 tons, that’s 400 pounds of nitrogen, 80 pounds of phosphate, and 320 pounds of potash.”

Depending on what you’re growing corn for, you may or may not remove the whole plant, he says.

“If you’re just growing grain, corn grain is high in protein and you’re taking off a lot of nitrogen. With a yield of 180 bushels of corn per acre, you’re going to remove close to 180 pounds of nitrogen, and you’ve got to replace it. That’s where our 1 pound per bushel of anticipated yield comes from.

“We upped it to 1.25 because you don’t get 100 percent nitrogen use-efficiency. As yields get higher, use-efficiency goes down,” he says.