Presidedress Soil Nitrogen Test

The PSNT is a soil nitrate test that has been developed to help make an accurate nitrogen fertilizer recommendation for a corn crop that has had an application of manure, a cover crop that contributes nitrogen to the soil, or has had a previous application of nitrogen such as a row starter, weed and feed, or broadcast treatment. This test was originally developed by Dr. Fred Magdoff at the University of Vermont for field corn production. In recent years there has been research done for a number of other crops such as cotton, tobacco and sugar beets. Since its successful introduction, the PSNT has been calibrated for a small number of vegetable crops, and the work continues on other corps. Research has been done in several states that when 25 ppm nitrate-N is present in the top foot of soil, response to additional side dress N is not likely. However, if the nitrate-N level of the top foot of soil is less than 10 ppm, response to full recommended rates of N would be expected.

Nitrogen Soil Test Procedure

The following is the procedure for the PSNT as recommended by several universities.

  • Apply a minimum of N in the spring as a starter fertilizer or herbicide carrier.
  • Soil samples are to be taken when the corn is in the 4 to 6 leaf stage (6 to 12 inches tall) or at least a week before planned side dressing.
  • Fields are sampled by taking a composite soil sample of 20-25 soil cores at random throughout the field. The cores should be taken to a 12 inch depth. Avoid areas where row starter or banded fertilizers have been applied, as well as where manure may have been injected. A large number of cores are recommended because of the variability in nitrogen content of many types of manure, and non-uniformity in spreading. If manure or fertilizer has been banded, 10-15 sets of cores, each set consisting of three cores, one core three inches to the right of the corn row, one in the middle of the rows and one core three inches to the left of the next corn row, should be collected for the composite sample.
  • The cores should be mixed thoroughly and crumbled. Approximately 1 cup is needed as a sub sample for analysis. Heat the sub sample in an oven or microwave (in an oven at 212° F or in a microwave on a paper plate a full power for 3-8 minutes or until completely dry. NOTE: This is required to stop the bacteria from converting other N form to the NO3-N. The heating will also destroy the sample as far as using it for other normal soil analysis.
  • Mark history and soil sample bag clearly that the sample is submitted for “NO3-N analysis only.” And send to Spectrum Analytic Inc for analysis.

Interpretation of Soil Nitrate And Ammonium Nitrogen Results

The majority of the University interpretive data considers only the NO3-N. Their work has found little NH4-N in the soil, and it has not been significantly correlated with N response. The “Normal” or “Background” level of NO3-N is often considered to be about 5 to 10 ppm, and full N rates are recommended. Universities vary, but most do not make side dress N recommendations when the soil NO3-N is above 21 to 25 ppm in the top 12” of soil. A limited amount of recent information suggests that there may be a reason to increase this “target for soil NO3-N to about 30 ppm. University recommendations for N when the soil NO3-N is intermediate tend to be proportional (when soil NO3-N is at mid-point in the range, the N recommendation is about 50% of their full recommendation for the corn crop). Factors that inhibit nitrification could cause an individual sample to have low NO3-N and high NH4-N. In this situation, the grower may want to adjust the interpretation due to the higher NH4-N level. If high levels of NH4-N are found, there is no research calibration data available, on which to base the interpretation.

When the Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Test was introduced, Spectrum began evaluating the test with our normal long term fertility plots. We found good correlation with yields at the normal interpretations. However, at that time we were also evaluating nitrification inhibitors, and we found that where nitrification inhibitors were used, we sometimes had significant amounts of NH4-N in the soil. In these situations, ignoring the NH4-N resulted in unreasonably high recommendations for sidedress N. Our current program includes a factor that gives some credit for the soil NH4-N when it is present in large amounts, but not when amounts are low.

Our program also includes increase N recommendations for N applications when the Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Test results are between 25 and 30 ppm and the request is for a high yield goal. This is to account for the limited data mentioned earlier, which suggested the need for a higher critical level for corn.

Nitrogen fertilizer recommendations based on the Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Test are valid only for corn at 10” to 12” tall and a 1 ft. deep soil sample. Extended periods of conditions causing N loss after testing, or significant amounts of undiscovered soil N below the 12” sampling depth could change the yield response.

Sample N Content

  • Sample N Content is calculated as follows:


NO3-N: 1 ppm = 1 ppm

NH4-N: If NH4-N < 16 ppm, then NH4-N = 0

If NH4-N > 16 ppm then 1 ppm NH4-N = 0.5 ppm NO3-N

Add the measured soil NO3-N to the calculation conversion of NH4-N to NO3-N, and then use the corresponding crop table below.

Field Corn

  • Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Recommendations for Field Corn in lbs. additional N/acre to apply
  • Growth Stage: 10” to 12” tall
Field Corn Yield Potential Bushel/Acre
Sample N Content (ppm) 100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190 200
0-10 110 125 140 150 160 175 190 205 220 235 250
11-15 80 95 110 125 140 150 160 175 190 200 210
16-20 70 80 90 105 120 130 140 155 170 180 190
21-25 0 50 50 60 60 75 90 105 120 130 140
26-30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 50 60 70 80
> 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Sweet Corn

  • Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Recommendations for Sweet Corn in lbs. additional N/acre to apply
  • Growth Stage: 10” to 12”
Yield Potential Tons/Acre
Sample N Content (ppm) 5 10 15
0-10 150 200 250
11-15 110 160 210
16-20 75 125 175
21-25 35 85 135
26-30 0 0 50
>30 0 0 0

Pumpkins and Squash

  • Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Recommendations for Pumpkins and Squash in lbs. additional N/acre to apply
  • Growth Stage: 7-10 days prior to vines running
Sample N Content (ppm) For Maximum Yield Potential
0-10 130
11-15 100
16-20 65
21-25 50
26-30 35
31-35 20
>36 0

Bell Peppers

  • Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Recommendations for Bell Peppers in lbs. additional N/acre to apply
  • Growth Stage: 7-10 days prior to first fruit set
Sample N Content (ppm) For Maximum Yield Potential
0-10 170
11-15 140
16-20 115
21-25 85
26-30 60
31-35 30
>36 0


  • Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Recommendations for Onions in lbs. additional N/acre to apply
  • Growth Stage: Preplant
Sample N Content (ppm) For Maximum Yield Potential
0-10 150
11-15 125
16-20 100
21-25 75
26-30 50
31-35 25
>36 0


  • Pre-sidedress Nitrogen Recommendations for Tomatoes in lbs. additional N/acre to apply
  • Growth Stage: 7-10 days prior to first cluster
Yield Potential Tons/Acre
Sample N Content (ppm) 20 30 40 50 60
0-10 80 110 140 170 200
11-15 65 90 115 140 165
16-20 55 70 90 100 130
21-25 40 55 70 85 100
26-30 30 35 45 55 65
31-35 0 0 25 30 35
>36 0 0 0 0 0
library/articles/presidedress_soil_nitrate_test_corn.txt · Last modified: 2010/03/29 15:34 by bill