We get a lot of producers that ask us, ‘which method is really best’? Fall Banding, Spring Banding, or One Pass Seeding?  And the answer is unfortunately, it depends…

Below is a guide to help you decide which practice is going to be right for you and your farm.


Fall Banding

The success of Fall Banding can be simplified into just these three factors[1]:

  1. Soil Type and Moisture Conditions
  2. Nitrogen Form Applied (Urea, Anhydrous Ammonia, Ammonium, or Nitrate and Soil Temperature
  3.  Type of Fertilizer Applied


Soil Type and Moisture Conditions

Fall Banding is best where you have drier to medium moisture soil.  You will experience larger Nitrogen losses in soils that are wet, water logged, or poorly drained due to a process called denitrification, where N begins to be broken down and is lost to microbial processes happening within the soil.  If N is late fall banded into either a drier or medium moisture soil type a fall banding application can be equally as effective as a spring banding application, according to Research Scientists Ross H. McKenzie and Doon Pauly with the Alberta Agriculture Division[1].  A general rule of thumb is don’t fall band on black and grey soil zones as these tend to be high in moisture, focus on banding in your drier brown and dark brown soil zones[1].


Nitrogen Type or Form Applied (Urea, Anhydrous Ammonia, Ammonium, or Nitrate) and Soil Temperature

The best forms of N to apply when fall banding are either Urea or Anhydrous Ammonia.  Urea and Anhydrous ammonia are converted into ammonium when they are broken down by chemical processes in the soil.  Ammonium is known to be stable, it does not denitrify, it doesn’t leach with precipitation so it’s fairly immobile in the soil, making it an ideal candidate for a banding application[2].  If banded late in the fall when the soil cools to about 7 degrees Celsius, the micro-organism activity will have slowed enough that the N will essentially lie in wait for the following spring once the soil begins to warm[1]. This can be a bit risky if you get some unexpected soil moisture or water logging through the winter that will begin denitrifying the N and cause losses as the soil warms in the spring.


How the Fertilizer is Applied

Banding is best, broadcasting and incorporating will result in more N loss.


Who is Fall Banding most well suited for?

  • Farms with dry to medium moisture soil types.
  • Fields with seedbed moisture retention issues will be benefited by a fall application versus a spring banding application.
  • Fall banding is less destructive to soils from a compaction standpoint, as opposed to spring banding.  Wet spring soils will compact more than solid, dry, and cooler fall soils.
  • Sometimes fertilizer pricing can be more inexpensive as this is generally when fertilizer dealers tend to offer discount programs.
  • Producers that are strapped for time or have many acres to seed find getting the banding done in the fall leaves more time to manage the workload they have remaining in the spring.
  • Fall banding is well suited for those putting down very high rates that could not be placed with the seed without burn.


Who should use Spring Banding?

  • Farmers that should use spring banding are those that have a wet soil condition or type[2].
  • When higher rates need to be applied than what can reasonably be placed with one pass seeding without burn.
  • Spring banding is still considered to be the more effective of the two banding methods, so it’s great for the farmer who wants to play it safe.


When should you use One Pass Seeding?

  • A good option for those producers limited by time, workload, and acreage to cover.
  • The most economical solution, it reduces passes, saves money and man hours spent in the cab of the tractor.
  • One-pass farming is the best solution for a healthy soil and keeping compaction to a minimum.
  • The full bang for your buck is made in your nutrient inputs when it’s applied directly with the seed.
  • Only for producers that are applying safe fertilizer rates with seed.
  • Delays in getting your seed into the ground could mean lost yields, so one pass seeding is of overall benefits your crop yields.
  • Can also be used effectively in conjunction with a fall or spring banding application depending on your soil zone.  Some producers will apply 75% of their total N when banding and then apply the remaining 25% directly with the seed in one pass[3].

Written and Published by Jessica Kohls, BSc, PgCE – Dutch Biologist