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Urea Application in a Drought



There is a lot more interest this spring in applying urea with a drill before planting, rather than broadcast application followed by a field cultivator to work it in. The drill will likely result in less soil disturbance and greater moisture conservation compared with a field cultivator. Urea application should be made deeper than 2 inches to avoid using a urease inhibitor (anything with a proper rate of NBPT). A separate drill application of urea should be made at an angle to the intended row, because when urea is broken apart into ammonia and carbon dioxide by the soil urease enzyme, the ammonia will hurt seed germination and reduce stand. By applying urea at an angle to the planting direction, a seed will be killed once in a while, but will not result in large gaps within a row. Any P applied in this manner will not behave as a ‘starter’, but will be available later in the season beyond which a starter might help early growth. If P is applied in this manner, some seed-placed/near-seed-placed P should be applied to corn, small grains, canola, sugarbeet and potato.

Dave Franzen

Extension Soil Specialist