prAGmatic: The impact of Nitrogen

By COLUMNISTS  posted on March 2, 2023 | Posted in The Red Deer Advocate

Nitrogen to sustain crop growth can only come from a few sources; fertilizer, lightning will strike fixed N into the ground, legume crops (think peas, lentils, vetch, clover, alfalfa. etc) are capable of biological nitrogen fixation, a promising but yet not well understood area called microbial fixation OR you can mine your “bank account” which is your soil organic matter by pulling nitrogen out of your long-term soil health deposit.

For every 1% of organic matter (OM) in the soil there will be about 1,000 lbs of nitrogen per acre in this soil “bank account”. But here’s the catch; releasing that nitrogen involves tillage. Tillage will liberate the nitrogen through a process called mineralization…but…and this is a big BUT, tillage also destroys soil structure, blasts off greenhouse gases, reduces water holding capacity and depletes the bank account.


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