After last year, no producer wanted to be late getting into the fields this fall. While it's great to get the crop out early, collect soil samples while it's still nice outside and perform tillage while soil conditions are adequate, Fabian Fernandez, University of Illinois Extension specialist in soil fertility and plant nutrition, says no one should be applying nitrogen (N) yet.

 

"Last year's harvest made it nearly impossible for many to properly fertilize their fields," Fernandez says. Every fall, producers who apply N worry that if they wait too long for temperatures to drop sufficiently, soils might become too wet to do the application. While the window of opportunity is small, it's important to exercise good judgment to realize the benefit of such application."

 

Nitrogen management is important because this nutrient is both one of the most expensive inputs in today's farming operations and one that can pose environmental concerns. Whether producers think of cost, environmental implications or both, no one can afford poor N management.

 

"Being smart about N use can pay large dividends," Fernandez says.