No-till farming is an excellent soil conservation practice that’s been proven to help reduce soil erosion and runoff. This is because it helps increase infiltration. However, the practice of no-till farming is not adequate at reducing nitrate loss from fields to streams and lakes. No-till farming contributes to higher nitrate losses than conventional tillage because of increased nitrate losses through underground leaching.
In the case of long-term no-till farms (10-plus years), those areas see an even higher concentration of nitrates. Despite these challenges, no-till farming has many great benefits: soil erosion control, increased buildup of organic matter, structural stability, better water infiltration and more favorable crop growing conditions.
The change in nitrate loading in runoff from conventional tillage to no-till ranged from a slight increase to as much as a 35% reduction. Loading from leaching, though, was shown to increase with no-till by a range of about 3% to 22%.
Given these pros and cons, some farmers implement solutions to reduce no-till nitrate leaching and loss, such as cover crops, crop rotations or split nitrogen applications.
One additional solution is the use of a nitrogen stabilizer. According to research from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, comparing nitrate loads in no-till and conventionally tilled fields, practices focused on nitrogen-use efficiency (such as use of a nitrogen stabilizer) can offer the best of both worlds to no-till fields: soil conservation benefits and protection from nitrate loss.
A research review from The Ohio State University also highlights that you can see additional yield benefits in no-till farming practices that are paired with nitrogen stabilizer use. Eighty-two percent of the reported fields with no-till soil saw an increase in yield, 13% on average.
We ask that you weigh the benefits of no-till farming against the possibility for nitrate losses and consider the addition of a nitrogen stabilizer like Instinct® or N-Serve®. Not only can it help protect from the high nitrate leaching in no-till operations, but it can also help maximize yield potential by keeping nitrogen in the root zone where plants need it most.
 Mullen, R.W. 2010. Nitrogen additives: What is what, and do they work? Proceedings of the Integrated Crop Management Conference.
Iowa State University: Nitrogen additives: What is what, and do they work?
Instinct is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Federal law does not require any person who applies or supervises the use of Instinct to be certified in accordance with EPA regulations and state, territorial and tribal laws. Some states may have additional requirements related to liquid manure and nitrogen stabilizers. Be sure to consult your state or local Extension service to understand your requirements. When applying Instinct to deep pits, appropriate manure agitation safety steps should be followed. Instinct should be applied directly to the deep pit prior to pumping the pit; a thorough agitation system must be operating in order to evenly distribute Instinct within the deep pit; applicators and handlers of Instinct and manure treated with Instinct are required to use proper protective equipment as stated on the product label; air ventilation systems must be operational inside barns. Do not fall-apply anhydrous ammonia south of Highway 16 in the state of Illinois. Always read and follow label directions.
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