Increase grain protein with late foliar nitrogen

By: Jez Wardman

An application of foliar nitrogen to the flag leaf and ear will increase the amount of nitrogen available to your crops during that crucial stage of protein development. Typically, protein levels can be increased by 1% through a well-timed application.

Increase grain protein with late foliar nitrogen
Increase grain protein with late foliar nitrogen
Typically, protein levels are increased 1% by foliar nitrogen

When growing milling wheats, everyone knows how important it is to hit that protein quality parameter; especially with wheat prices as they are. According to the AHDB Cereal Quality Survey, protein content still remains the limiting factor.

The top-up nitrogen application for milling wheat needs to be separate in order to build up the protein to the required level. Nitrogen source, rate and timing are important when trying to boost the protein to ensure the nitrogen is utilised correctly in the plant.

Applying foliar nitrogen means that the soil/root system is by-passed and therefore minimises the risks of nitrogen immobilisation, denitrification and leaching; all of which could occur with the traditional flag leaf application of nitrogen. The nitrogen uptake is also much less dependent on soil moisture and this means it is a more reliable source of nitrogen.

Increased nitrogen uptake

Without a well-timed foliar application of nitrogen, your crops may struggle to contain enough protein to satisfy the requirement for yield and quality.

Applying 40-60kgN/ha which is 200L/ha of Nufol, depending on the requirement, has shown to be the best rate in Yara trial work. The application should go on between the end of flowering and milky-ripe stages (69-75) to get the best results and ensure the nitrogen is used for boosting grain protein rather than elsewhere within the plant. Typically, this will be the last week in June, but depends upon the season. If unsure then err on the side of caution and go earlier rather than later to avoid disappointing results. It is also advisable to apply when the crop is most receptive for uptake, i.e. when conditions are cool such as early morning or late afternoon.

High yielding situations

Where the nitrogen requirement is greater than 40 kg N/ha, consider split applications each applying 30 kg N/ha so make a first application at GS 59 (ear emergence) apply 150 l/ha Chafer Nufol diluted with 100 l/ha water followed by a repeat application at GS 69-75 (post flowering)

More information on all Yara liquid fertilisers

Cereal agronomy advice

Wheat agronomy and fertiliser advice
Wheat agronomy and fertiliser advice

Subscribe to arable agronomy advice

Our agronomy team send out regular updates of the latest arable advice. If you would like to receive this advice please use this form to submit your details and let us know which crops you are most interested in.

By submitting the form you confirm that you have been informed that we process your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.