Hi guys, sorry it took me so long to respond. I've been looking for the research on the "carbon penalty," which I think, ironically enough, comes from Iowa State. But I can't seem to find it right now. Either way, here's the deal: The carbon penalty is real. When you apply nitrogen, remember that your plants eat at the last table. So the residue sitting on your fields effectively acts like a sponge to soak up that N. The microbes use it as a food source. We know all of that. In fact, Dr. DeAnn Presley from K-State has done some great research on using nitrogen to help break down wheat straw and has seen excellent results. Why? Because it works. So, why would anyone say it doesn't? Because when we put it on in the fall, if it gets too cold too fast, it is true that the microbes that do that breaking down effectively go dormant.
BUT, with that said I'm fine with my growers putting on a LITTLE (like a couple gallons of 28 or 32%) on right after harvest if it's still >45 degrees to help kick start this process. In the worst case scenario that small of an amount of nitrogen shouldn't cause any appreciable loss as it ties up with the residue, and it's right there as an immediately available food source in the spring. You WILL pay a carbon penalty, the question is when. It won't work for everyone in all conditions, but to discount a fall breakdown recipe wholesale is simply asinine. It's bad science.