Your farm’s productivity depends on nitrogen, whether it comes from organic or mineral sources. But the nitrogen cycle is leaky by nature, and some nitrogen is always lost. Nitrate-based fertilisers and precision farming are your best weapons against nitrogen loss and lack of efficiency.

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Below optimum N supply, the residual nitrogen in the soil after harvesting (and thus the risk of leaching) is independent of the application rates

Why you need to control leaching

Leaching occurs when mobile nitrate from the mineral nitrogen pool is washed out of the root zone by heavy rainfall. This is both inefficient and harmful to the environment. High concentrations of nitrates contribute to the eutrophication of watercourses, which can cause algae blooms to develop and deplete oxygen levels in the water.

What causes nitrate leaching? 

Large amounts of unused nitrogen in the soil, well-drained soil and heavy rainfall are the main causes of leaching. Reducing the amount of fertiliser alone won’t necessarily reduce residual nitrogen, but it could drastically diminish your yield. The only solution is to ensure your nitrogen application is tailored to the needs of your crop.

NitrogenLeaching_10WaysToReduce-ICON2.png 10 ways to reduce nitrogen leaching

  1. Determine soil mineral nitrogen content by sampling.
  2. Use split application to adjust nitrogen availability to meet crop needs.
  3. Ensure balanced nutrition (P, K, S) to optimise nitrogen uptake.
  4. Develop a deep and extensive root system to capture available nutrients.
  5. Apply fertilisers and manure accurately across fields.
  6. Maintain buffer strips between cropped land and watercourses.
  7. Maintain green cover as long as possible to absorb excess nitrogen and make sure it is re-established rapidly after ploughing.
  8. Keep a porous soil structure to avoid surface run-off and sub-surface bypass flow on heavy soils.
  9. Check guidelines for the application of manure and fertilisers in autumn.
  10. Use robust, well-proven nitrogen recommendation systems such as Atfarm and Yara Irix.

Get the tools you need to control leaching

  • Digital precision farming tools, such as the YaraIrix and N-Sensor, measure a crop’s nitrogen demand so that you can feed exactly the right amount in the right place.
  • Your local Yara agronomist will help you establish fertilisation strategies that minimize leaching while optimising yield on your farm.

Try our quiz to see how efficient you are

Answer five questions to see if you can improve your nitrogen fertiliser use efficiency

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Improve your farm's nitrogen fertiliser efficiency

Improve your farm's nitrogen fertiliser efficiency

Improving nitrogen fertiliser efficiency is one way your farm can become more productive, profitable and sustainable. Try our quiz to find out how you can improve your farm's nitrogen fertiliser efficiency.

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Read about improving nutrient efficiency