Stalk Nitrate Test Results for New York Corn Fields from 2010 through 2019

Quirine Ketterings1, Karl Czymmek1,2, Sanjay Gami1, Mike Reuter3
Cornell University Nutrient Management Spear Program1, PRO-DAIRY2, and Dairy One3

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. Research shows that the crop had more N than needed when CSNT results exceed 2000 pm. Results can vary from year to year but 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 ten years is shown in Table 1. For 2019, 33% of all tested fields had CSNT-N greater than 2000 ppm, while 24% were over 3000 ppm and 11% exceeded 5000 ppm. In contrast, 31% of the 2019 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. This includes 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 that can impact the N status of the crop.

CSNT-N tableWithin-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 as a result of findings that targeted sampling generates more meaningful information while reducing the time and labor investment into sampling. 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).

CSNT-N comparison by year graphs
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

logosWe 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, and/or visit the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program website at:

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