If we take a typical spring barley crop, we recommend a total of 140 - 160 kg N is applied. When fertilising for yield, actual rate should be based on the economic optimum which is calculated based on the nitrogen response data, adjusted to current crop and fertiliser prices. Check out our spring barley N-Response calculator to see how changing the price of fertiliser and crop affect the economic optimum N rate.
It is important to match nitrogen availability with uptake. As can be seen below, there is an overall uptake rate of 0.9 kg N /ha /day but this varies through the season with an initial nitrogen requirement soon after drilling followed by a rapid uptake of nitrogen during stem extension and then a lower requirement through to maturity. This means a good proportion of nitrogen should be applied at drilling with the balance applied by mid tillering.
Having a strategy to split nitrogen, rather than applying all at drilling or shortly afterwards, enables a more targeted and ‘fine tuning’ approach to enable ‘nitrogen supply’ to be synchronous with ‘nitrogen demand’. Split dressings also allow the use of variable rate technology such as Atfarm or Yara N-Sensor, which reduces lodging, evens up protein and increases yield by approx 3%.
Around 30-40% of this nitrogen should be applied at drilling either surface broadcast, incorporated or preferably combine drilled, using an NPKS compound fertiliser such as YaraMIla Actyva S or YaraMila 52S. The balance of nitrogen should then be applied as a second application at GS30-31 using YaraBela Axan.
Often people ask about applying urea, however, this can often be risky. Urea won’t have the same effect as an ammonium nitrate based fertiliser as it takes between 10 days and 6 weeks to hydrolyse and convert into plant-available nitrogen. This is not ideal if we are looking for quick plant uptake to establish the crop as soon as possible.
How much will nitrogen rate affect the grain protein?
Trials show there is a linear relationship between applied nitrogen and grain protein. Approximately for every 20 kg N per ha an increase of 0.06% grain N was observed.
If high grain N is required (= high protein) it is important to be fertilising for yield, otherwise sub-optimal applications will be diluted, leading to low protein.