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Optimal Timing for Applying Nitrogen to Wheat

Apply nitrogen to wheat during key growth stages: stem extension and grain filling in winter, tillering and stem extension in spring.

Correct application will maximize crop productivity and reduce any negative environmental impacts. The application should be in sync with the demand.

This article aims to explain to you the best timing for applying nitrogen fertilizer to wheat based on seasons. Continue reading to learn how to apply nitrogen.

Application Timing

Close up of grass growing in soil ideal for illustrating application timing to wheat

The optimal application time to apply nitrogen to wheat can differ based on seasons and the growth of the plants. Let’s get into the winter and spring seasons to understand clearly.

Winter Application Times

Winter is a crucial time to apply nitrogen to wheat crops, and it is important to do so with caution. Follow these recommendations for a great crop in the winter season.

Stem Extension

After 6-7 months of sowing, plants start to grow. As they grow, their demand for nutrients will also increase. During this time, as the crop grows, the demand for nutrients increases. Nutrients, including phosphate, nitrogen, potassium, and even sulfur, are required for plants to grow. 

Crops are often in the nascent stage during this time as multiple other micronutrients are required for them. It is not feasible for everyone to be able to properly maintain the needs of the crop. 

Make sure that the nitrogen application is uniform and sufficient for the plants during the entire process.

Grain Filling

When you plant a grain and it is in the production phase, provide continuous nitrogen. This supply of nitrogen will help the development and growth of the grain. Nitrogen for the leaf needs to be maintained properly at this time.

Also, applications of nutrients like phosphate, boron, and magnesium should be added to maximize the production and filling of grains.

Spring Application Times

Various types of grasses and weeds on a white wooden table Spring Application Times

If you are applying nitrogen during the spring season, it is recommended that you follow these suggestions.


The optimal sowing time for wheat is from late March to early April. Wheat has a shorter season of growth in Spring.

There’s also limited establishment and leaf/tillering development phase in spring. This phase only produces limited leaves (9 to 10) and tillers (4 to 5) before coming to the next phase of stem extension.

In the short season, it is even more important to focus on nutrients to maximize early growth rates. It also establishes interception of the light. Nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, and sulfur help the wheat crop to grow healthy and vigorously. 

Stem Extension of the Wheat

As the plant continues to grow, its demand for nutrients will also increase. This includes the demand for nitrogen and other nutrients. Keep in mind that you should apply these in your plan to give faster and healthier growth to the plant.

In the season of spring, wheat is only grown for 90-120 days. It is a short span of time. Unlike winter wheat, which continues from 190 to 210 days.

Split Applications

A hand gently touches a wheat field showcasing the beauty of nature This image represents Split Applications

Leaching and poorly drained sandy soil are prone to denitrification. In this situation, split applications should be considered.

That means you’ll have to apply enough nitrogen in the fall during or before planting, i.e., generally 20-30 pounds. Additionally, around 20-30 pounds of Hans Chem’s organic nitrogen fertilizer should be applied in late winter or early spring to support spring tillering.

When wheat stands are thin due to poor emergence, the late winter and early spring application becomes extremely important. Come back around jointing or a few days later with a final application to support grain fill.

This strategy of split applications provides balance and flexibility in a year of uncertainty.

Application Method

If you want proper growth of the wheat crop, it is essential that you apply the fertilizer in each and every phase. Uniform fertilization can and will do wonders for your crop. As mentioned, apply organic nitrogen fertilizer uniformly.

A solution of urea ammonium (28-0-0) is to be applied with streamer nozzles for little to no leaf burn. The uniform application has shown small yield advantages.

Use the airflow technology to improve the application. This will help you in spreading the fertilizer uniformly and reduce the chances of over-fertilization or under-fertilization of some area.

Spinner spreaders are mostly inconsistent. If you employ spinners, you’ll have to double-spread the field to overcome inconsistency. That means 6 meter or 20 feet centers at half the rate instead of 12 meter or 40 feet centers.

New spreader technology is great at helping you spread uniformly all over the field. It also reduces the overlaps within the field.


A persons hands holding a handful of rice demonstrating the application method

After understanding the timing for applying nitrogen to wheat fields, it’s a good time to start planning your nitrogen application. Keep in mind that nutrient deficiency always impacts the crops.

If you are looking for organic nitrogen-based, humic acid, ammonium chloride, seaweed, potassium sulphate or any other kind of fertilizers, visit the leading fertilizer manufacturer, Hans-Chem.

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