What's Cropping Up? Blog

Articles from the bi-monthly Cornell Field Crops newsletter

February 12, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on What’s Cropping Up? Volume 29, Number 1 – January/February 2019

What’s Cropping Up? Volume 29, Number 1 – January/February 2019

February 6, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Nitrogen Management of Brown Midrib Forage Sorghum in New York

Nitrogen Management of Brown Midrib Forage Sorghum in New York

Sarah E. Lyonsa, Quirine M. Ketteringsa, Greg Godwina, Debbie J. Cherneyb, Jerome H. Cherneyc, John J. Meisingerd, and Tom F. Kilcere

a Nutrient Management Spear Program, Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, b Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, c Soil and Crop Sciences Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, d USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD, and e Advanced Agricultural Systems, LLC, Kinderhook, NY

Introduction

Forage sorghum is a drought and heat tolerant warm-season grass that can be used for silage on dairy farms. It can be a good alternative to corn silage in New York particularly during drought years or in the case of delayed planting in the spring. Forage sorghum requires soil temperatures of at least 60°F for planting, which normally occurs in early June in New York. Forage sorghum could also be a good fit for double cropping rotations because its later planting date gives time for an early May harvest of a forage winter cereal. Between 2013 and 2017, we conducted 13 N-rate trials across three regions of New York to evaluate nitrogen (N) needs for a brown midrib (BMR) forage sorghum variety (Alta Seeds AF7102).

Trial Set-Up

The trials were planted between early June and early July in central New York (eight trials) and northern New York (five trials). Of the northern New York trials, three were on commercial farms. The other trials were on Cornell research farms. Two of the three trials on commercial farms were conducted on fields with recent manure or legume histories. For eleven of the trials, sorghum was planted at a 1-inch seeding depth and 15-inch row spacing (15 lbs/acre seeding rate). The remaining two trials were planted either with a 30-inch or 7.5-inch row spacing. Five N-rates as Agrotain®-treated urea (Koch Agronomic Services, LLC, Wichita, KS) were broadcasted at planting (0, 50, 100, 150, and 200 lbs N/acre) with two additional N rates (250 and 300 lbs N/acre) for one of the central New York locations. The forage sorghum was harvested at the soft dough stage, which occurred between September 20 and October 14. Harvest was done using a 4-inch cutting height and dry matter (DM) yield was measured. This allowed for determination of the most economic rate of N (MERN), the N use efficiency (NUE), and the apparent N recovery (ANR). The NUE and ANR are measures of N efficiency. The NUE is the amount of N taken up in relation to yield, and is calculated by subtracting the yield when no N was applied in the spring from the yield when N was applied, and dividing that value by the N rate applied (NUE [lbs DM/lbs N] = [Triticale yieldN rate – Triticale yield­0 N]/N rate). A higher NUE means that more of the N that was applied was taken up by the sorghum. The ANR is the amount of fertilizer N recovered, calculated by subtracting the N in the forage when no N was applied from the N in the forage when N was applied, and dividing that value by the N rate applied (ANR [%] = [Forage N of Nrate – Forage N of N0]/N rate).

Results

The crop yield response to N could be separated into three yield response groups: (1) no response to N addition (MERN = 0; two trials), (2) no yield plateau (MERN > 200 kg N ha-1; four trials), and (3) a yield plateau between the lowest and highest N rates (seven trials) (Figure 1). The two trials on fields at commercial farms with a recent manure or legume history did not respond to N addition (group 1 trials, panel A). The trial in group 1 with the lowest yield (5.3 tons DM/ac) was planted with a 30-inch row spacing, which resulted in weed issues that likely impacted crop performance. Trials in group 2 (panel B) were either very responsive to N addition or had N uptake limitations, most likely reflecting weather or soil drainage issues. The trials in group 3 (panel C) had MERNs ranging from 134 to 234 lbs N/acre, averaging 181 lbs N/acre. Yields at the MERN for group 3 trials ranged from 6.7 to 10.4 tons DM/acre and averaged 8.9 tons DM/acre. On average, for responsive sites (so excluding group 1 trials), forage sorghum required approximately 20 lbs N/acre per ton DM. On average, for each ton of DM, 25 lbs of N was taken up by the sorghum. For group 3, higher N rates led to lower ANR and NUE (Figure 2). For these trials, NUE at the MERN averaged 56 lbs DM/lbs N and ANR at the MERN averaged 83%.

 

Figure 1: Impact of N application on forage sorghum yield for 13 trials from 2013 to 2017. Sorghum was harvested at the soft dough stage. Two trials did not respond to N (A), four trials did not have a yield plateau (B), and seven trials had a yield plateau between the lowest and highest N rates (C). Differences are likely due to sites native N supply, weather conditions, agronomic practices, and/or soil properties (see text for further details). Different symbols represent different sites within each group.

Figure 2: Forage sorghum nitrogen use efficiency (NUE, A) and apparent N recovery (ANR, B) as impacted by N application rate for seven trials with a most economic rate of N between the highest and lowest N rates. Different shapes represent different trials within each group.

Conclusions and Implications

Forage sorghum can be a good alternative to corn silage in years of drought, delayed corn planting, or as part of a double crop rotation with forage winter cereals. The BMR forage sorghum in this study, grown on N-limited sites, needed around 180 lbs N/acre, or around 20 lbs N per ton of DM, and yielded between 7 and 10 tons DM per acre. Fields with recent manure or legume histories supplied sufficient N, resulting in no crop response to additional N for the forage sorghum. Applying N beyond the N needs of the crop will result in reduced N use efficiencies. In addition, stands with row spacing greater than the recommended 15 inches may result in weed or other stand issues that could impact performance.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by Federal Formula Funds, and grants from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NESARE). For questions about these results, contact Quirine M. Ketterings at 607-255-3061 or qmk2@cornell.edu, and/or visit the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program website at: http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/.

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January 30, 2019
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Stalk Nitrate Test Results for New York Corn Fields from 2010 through 2018

Stalk Nitrate Test Results for New York Corn Fields from 2010 through 2018

Quirine Ketterings1, Karl Czymmek1,2, Sanjay Gami1, Mike Reuter3
Cornell University Nutrient Management Spear Program1, PRODAIRY2, and Dairy One3

Introduction

The corn stalk nitrate test (CSNT) is an end-of-season evaluation tool for N management for 2nd or higher year corn fields that allows for identification of situations where more N was available during the growing season than the crop needed. Where CSNT results exceed 3000 ppm for two or more years, it is highly likely that N management changes can be made without impacting yield.

Findings 2010-2018

The summary of CSNT results for the past nine years is shown in Table 1. For 2018, 54% of all tested fields had CSNTs greater than 2000 ppm, while 44% were over 3000 ppm and 26% exceeded 5000 ppm. In contrast, 15% of the 2017 samples were low in CSNT-N. The percentage of samples testing excessive in CSNT-N was most correlated with the precipitation in May-June with droughts in those months translating to a greater percentage of fields testing excessive. As crop history, manure history, other N inputs, soil type, and growing conditions all impact CSNT results, conclusions about future N management should take into account the events of the growing season. In addition, weed pressure, disease pressure, lack of moisture in the root zone in drought years, lack of oxygen in the root zone due to excessive rain, and other stress factors can impact the N status of the crop.

Within-field spatial variability can be considerable in New York, requiring (1) high density sampling (equivalent of 1 stalk per acre at a minimum) for accurate assessment of whole fields, or (2) targeted sampling based on yield zones, elevations, or soil management units. The 2018 expansion of adaptive management options for nutrient management now includes targeted CSNT sampling. Work is ongoing to evaluate use of yield to CSNT-N ratios to identify situations where yield was limited by factors other than N supply. Two years of CSNT data are recommended before making any management changes unless CSNT’s exceed 5000 ppm (in which case one year of data is sufficient).

Figure 1: In drought years (determined in this analysis by May-June rainfall below 7.5 inches; which occurred in 2012, 2016, and 2018), more samples test excessive in CSNT-N while fewer test low or marginal.

Relevant References

Acknowledgments

We thank the many farmers and farm consultants that sampled their fields for CSNT. For questions about these results contact Quirine M. Ketterings at 607-255-3061 or qmk2@cornell.edu, and/or visit the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program website at: http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/.

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December 3, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Adapt-N tool leads to reduced nitrate leaching compared to Corn N Calculator

Adapt-N tool leads to reduced nitrate leaching compared to Corn N Calculator

Joseph Amsili, Aaron Ristow, Márcio Nunes, Harold van Es, Robert Schidelbeck, Mike Davis
Soil and Crop Sciences, Cornell University and Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station

Take-Aways:

  • Corn N Calculator (CNC) N rates based on realistic yields expectations were on average 59 lbs N acre-1 higher than Adapt-N rates, but did not result in yield increases.
  • Adapt-N nitrogen (N) rates led to 58% (clay loam) and 68% (loamy sand) less nitrate leaching compared to CNC N rates.
  • Adapt-N rates resulted in savings of $29 acre-1 compared to CNC N rates.

The over-application of nitrogen (N) fertilizer leads to large environmental problems and represents a considerable financial cost to the farmer. Despite these issues, farmers tend to over-apply nitrogen due to the difficulty of predicting the economic optimum N rate and the need to ensure high yields. Static N rate tools, like Cornell’s Corn N Calculator (CNC; http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/software/calculators.html), are promoted widely but don’t capture the dynamic interactions between site-specific weather, soil, and management variables. Adapt-N (http://www.adapt-n.com), a dynamic-adaptive N recommendation tool, was designed to integrate real-time weather and site-specific soil and management data to predict the optimum N rate.

In previous studies, it was demonstrated that Adapt-N can produce comparable yields to static N models and grower selected rates, while reducing overall N inputs (What’s Cropping Up article on comparing static and Adaptive N Tools; What’s Cropping Up article on comparing Adapt-N and CNC Tools). Yet no field experiments had been conducted to compare the effects of Adapt-N and a static N calculator on measured nitrate leaching. This study utilized two long-term tillage experiments to measure the effects of modeled N rates (Adapt N vs. CNC), soil type (clay loam vs. sandy loam), and tillage practices (no-till vs. plow-till) on nitrate leaching.

Methods

Adapt-N and CNC nitrogen recommendations were superimposed onto two long-term tillage experiments (plow and no-till) at the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm for four years (2014-2017). The trials were done on contrasting soil types, one on a Muskellunge clay loam and the other on a Cosad loamy fine sand. Nitrogen rates included 15 lbs N/acre as starter fertilizer and the rest was side-dressed approximately six weeks after planting. CNC N rates were calculated using accurate yield potentials for each plot at the two sites (default yield potentials in the tool are unrealistically low). Adapt-N recommendations were developed considering plot-specific soil textures, organic matter contents, rooting depths, crop rotations, tillage practice, crop cultivar and population, previous N applications, drainage, and yield potentials, as well as daily weather information and grain and fertilizer prices.

Corn silage yield was collected each year by hand harvesting two 5 m corn rows at three locations per plot. Drainage water samples were collected on 14 dates between April 2015 and October 2017 (Figure 1) on dates when the drain lines discharged. Water samples were analyzed for nitrate, NO3, and nitrate, NO2, which we simply refer to as nitrate in this article because the nitrite fraction is generally less than 1%.

Results and Discussion

Nitrogen rates and Yield

The CNC tool calculated 59 lbs acre-1 higher average N application rates than Adapt N (186 vs. 127 lbs N acre-1; Table 1). There were only two instances (both wet seasons on the clay loam soil) where Adapt-N predicted higher N rates than the CNC tool.

Soil type had a very strong effect on corn silage yield, which were 2.37 tons acre-1 higher in the loamy sand plots than the clay loam plots. Despite a lower yield potential for the clay loam site, the mean recommended N rate for that soil was 17 lbs acre-1 higher than the loamy sand site. This indicates that both N tools assume a lower nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) for finer textured soils.

While CNC N rates were much higher than Adapt N rates, they did not result in increases in yield (16.28 vs. 16.30 tons acre-1; Table 1). We found no relationship between N rate and yield as equally high yields were achievable at 100 lbs N acre-1 with Adapt-N as with CNC rates higher than 180 lbs N acre-1 (Figure 1). The Adapt-N rates resulted in calculated savings of $29 acre-1 (based on a fertilizer price of $0.50 lb N-1) compared to the CNC N rates since yields between the N tools were indistinguishable.

Nitrate Leaching

Soil type and N Tool were important drivers of nitrate leaching in this study. Nitrate leaching averaged two times higher in sandy loam soils than clay loam soils (16.47 vs. 8.34 mg NO3+NO2 L-1; Table 1) despite slightly higher N rates for the clay loam soils. This “missing” nitrogen in leached waters under the clay loam soils suggests that denitrification is an important N loss pathway in these finer textured soils, which is a well-documented phenomenon.

In addition to higher fertilizer costs per acre, CNC N rates led to 58% higher nitrate leaching in clay loam soils (10.32 vs. 6.55 mg NO3+NO2 L-1) and 68% higher nitrate leaching in loamy sand soils (20.69 vs. 12.29  mg NO3+NO2 L-1) compared to Adapt-N (Table 1). Increases in nitrate leaching were proportionally larger than the increases in N rates (46 % higher for CNC than Adapt N for clay loam; 43% higher for loamy sand). This pattern indicates that N rates above the optimum have disproportionately large environmental impacts. Also, average nitrate concentrations in leached water under CNC plots exceeded the U.S. EPA drinking water standard of 10 mg NO3 L-1 for both soil types. But nitrate concentrations under Adapt-N plots only exceeded the EPA standard at the loamy sand site.

Despite high variability in nitrate concentrations at different sampling dates, there was a positive relationship between N rate and nitrate concentrations in leached water (Figure 1). The exponential relationship suggests that nitrate leaching is more sensitive to increasing N rates on loamy sand soils than clay loam soils (Figure 1). We noticed that extremely high nitrate concentrations (> 50 mg NO3+NO2 L-1) in leached water in loamy sands occurred after long dry periods (e.g., in the 2016 growing season) under CNC N rates, but not Adapt-N rates.

Tillage effects were modestly significant and on average the mean nitrate concentrations were 45% higher for the plow than no-till in the clay loam and 5% higher in the loamy sand.

Conclusions

This study compared the static Corn N Calculator and Adapt-N and showed that the CNC seriously over-predicts the optimum N rate when based on realistic corn yields because the higher N rates did not result in yield benefits. Use of Adapt-N led to savings of $29 acre-1, reduced nitrate leaching by between 58% (clay loam) and 68% (loamy sand), and helped keep nitrate concentrations in drain water below or near the U.S. EPA drinking water standard.

Acknowledgements:

Research was funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, USDA-NRCS, and New York Farm Viability Institute.

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August 7, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on What’s Cropping Up? Volume 28, Number 3 – July/August 2018

What’s Cropping Up? Volume 28, Number 3 – July/August 2018

August 3, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Nutrient Boom Allows for Mid-Season Manure Application in Corn

Nutrient Boom Allows for Mid-Season Manure Application in Corn

Greg Godwina, Quirine M. Ketteringsa, Karl J. Czymmeka,b, Todd Dumondc, and Doug Youngd
a Nutrient Management Spear Program, Dept. of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, b PRODAIRY, Dept. of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, cDumond Farms, Union Spring, NY, and dSpruce Haven Farm and Research Center, Union Springs, NY

Introduction

The application of manure to an actively growing crop can improve the uptake of nutrients, with benefits to both the crop and the environment. The “Nutrient Boom” (Figure 1) is a new tool developed by Doug Young of Spruce Haven Farm and Research Center (Union Springs, NY) and partners that allows for the application of liquid manure to corn as tall as 7 ft. It applies manure through flexible hoses in a 120 foot swath with little damage to the standing corn. Mid-season manure application allows for greater flexibility in the spring for planting and can reduce runoff by delaying spreading to a drier part of the growing season. Two years of field trials were conducted to compare corn yield with mid-season manure application with yields obtained with inorganic nitrogen (N) application.

Figure 1: The Nutrient Boom allows for manure application in standing corn.

Field Research

A trial was conducted in Union Springs, NY, in 2016 and 2017. There were two 120 foot wide manure treatments, each replicated three times: (1) No manure (control treatment); and (2) Manure (targeted rate of ~12000 gallons/acre). Within each manure treatment, six 300-foot long subplots were established that received the following sidedress N treatments after the manure was applied: (1) No sidedress N; (2) 35 lbs N/acre; (3) 70 lbs N/acre; (4) 105 lbs N/acre; (5) 140 lbs N/acre; and (6) 175 lbs N/acre. In 2016, one corn variety was used (PO157AMX). In 2017, each strip was split through the middle and planted to two corn varieties (DKC54-36AR and P0506). Corn stalk nitrate test (CSNT) samples were taken when the corn had a moisture content of about 35% dry matter (typical silage harvest time). The field was harvested for grain in both years. Yields were obtained from yield monitor maps calculated from 200-ft lengths in the middle 80 ft (40 ft per variety in 2017) of the plots to minimize the influence of adjacent treatments.

Results

Plots receiving manure mid-season averaged 181 bu/acre (2016) and 159 bu/acre (2017). The corn grown in these plots did not respond to extra N fertilizer regardless of rate. The corn in plots that did not receive manure responded to N fertilizer (Figure 2). Pre-sidedress nitrate tests taken prior to manure and inorganic N application indicated a response to N was likely in both years.

Figure 2. Corn grain yields as impacted by mid-season manure application, fertilizer sidedress N rate and variety. Yield data obtained with a yield monitor. Conditions were extremely dry in 2016 and wet in 2017.

Figure 3. Corn grain yield, Corn Stalk Nitrate Test (CSNT) and grain yield:CSNT ratio as influenced by N rate and manure application for 2016 and 2017 combined for plots that did not receive manure (yellow) and plots with manure addition (green).

Because corn grown in plots that received manure was not responsive to extra fertilizer N, the most economic rate of fertilizer N (MERN) where manure was applied was 0 lbs N/acre. The MERN for the non-manured plots was 121 lbs N/acre in 2016, and 133 lbs N/acre (DKC54-36AR) and 143 lbs N /acre (P0506) in 2017, using $4.35/bu of grain and $0.32/lb of N fertilizer. Yield at the MERN averaged 157 bu/acre in 2016, and 122 bu/acre (DKC54-36AR) and 145 bu/acre (P0506) in 2017. Manure addition increased yield to 16-35 bu/acre above yields obtained at the MERNs with fertilizer N only.

Results were similar both years despite large differences in precipitation between the two growing seasons. Of the two varieties planted in 2017, both performed similarly in the manured plots but P0506 responded more to the N in non-manured plots and used N more efficiently (MERN was 10 lbs/acre higher while yield at MERN was 23 bu/acre higher for P0506).

The CSNT results (Figure 3) showed an increase in CSNT when N fertilizer was added beyond the MERN in plots that had not received manure, resulting in peak in grain yield to CSNT ratio just prior to the MERN. For plots that had received manure, this relationship was different, reflecting that additional N fertilizer could not increase yield but did increase CSNT values.

These results show two things: (1) the benefit of the manure application mid-season for overall yield of the field; and (2) the potential for both gains in yield and savings in N fertilizer costs with application of manure to fields that are N deficient.

Conclusions and Implications

Manure application mid-season with the Nutrient Boom at rates applied in the study benefitted corn grain yield beyond what could be obtained with fertilizer in 2016 (dry year) and 2017 (wet year). Corn that was grown on plots that received the manure did not respond to sidedress N application in 2016 or 2017, independent of variety. Thus, manure applications were high enough to meet the crops’ N needs but N supply was not solely responsible for the higher yield. The higher yield and lack of response to fertilizer N in the manured plots suggest great potential for lowering of whole farm nutrient mass balances with manure application mid-season, especially for fields that are N deficient and would otherwise have needed a fertilizer N application. Future work should focus on rate calibration and control of the applicator and comparisons of impact of rates and timing of application on yield and N use efficiency. The current model was susceptible to clogging, but this is being addressed in the next version of the Nutrient Boom.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the New York Farm Viability Institute and Federal Formula Funding. We would like to thank the staff at Dumond Farms and Spruce Haven Farm and Research Center and NMSP team members who helped out with the trials. For questions about these results, contact Quirine M. Ketterings at 607-255-3061 or qmk2@cornell.edu, and/or visit the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program website at: http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/

 

 

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