By Dr. Gurbir Dhillon, Farming Smarter soil scientist
Producers spend considerably more time, money and resources on proper nitrogen management in crop production systems than any other mineral because it's a critical element required for plant growth.
Nitrogen is an integral component of essential plant compounds including the proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, and chlorophyll. Thus, most biological processes including photosynthesis are impacted by N deficiencies.
Nitrogen deficiency leads chlorosis - pale yellowish-green leaves. This effect is especially pronounced in older foliage as the available nitrogen is transferred to the newly emerged leaves in case of inadequate nitrogen supply.
Nitrogen-deficient plants lack vigor, have stunted appearance, thin stems and mature earlier compared to the healthy plants. Nitrogen also helps regulate root growth and development and uptake of other nutrients. Oversupply of nitrogen on the other hand may lead to excessive vegetative growth and higher lodging incidence in case of heavy rain or wind.
Too much nitrogen may delay plant maturity and make them susceptible to fungal diseases and insect pests. In addition to the agronomic and economic impacts of better N management, there are critical environmental implications as well.
Manufacturing of N fertilizers is an energy intensive process. Additionally, N fertilizers can increase greenhouse gas emissions through the generation of nitrous oxide gas. The following articles of this series will discuss other aspects of nitrogen life cycle and management including different forms of nitrogen in soil, and important processes including nitrification and biological nitrogen fixation.