It is that time of year, every Co-op I drove by the other day had a line of trucks pulling anhydrous tanks and the spinner spreaders were being loaded. For those of you who haven’t applied your nitrogen yet lets discussion the options traditional and untraditional.
Anhydrous Ammonia, 82-0-0: by far the most widely used N source is the southern Great Plains. While it is not the most enjoyable to work with it is the cheapest per pound of N and that leads to its wide spread use without Okalhoma wheat production. Just a few simple rules with NH3, get it in the ground and close the row behind you. In conventional till this is usually easier unless the ground is too wet or too dry. In no-till this may be a little more challenging but usually easily accomplished. With the rise in low disturbance applicators I am seeing more and more acres of no-till receiving NH3. Last year I was in a field of stripper stubble and I had a hard time finding where the rig had run, minus wheel tracks.
Urea, 46-0-0: is second on the hit list in nitrogen sales in our state. It is a safe source that is easily handled and applied. In a conventional till system where the urea can be worked in shortly after application it is a very efficient and effective source. Unfortunately when it is applied to the soil surface and rain is the method of incorporation we can experience between 5-60% N losses. The losses come from how urea is converted to plant available ammonium (NH4). For urea (NH2)2CO2, to be converted to plant available NH4 it needs the enzyme urease. Urease is present everywhere but in the highest concentrations on plant residue. The figure below shows the reaction, urease converts urea into NH3 as soon as the prill dissolves. In the presence of moisture the NH3 (gas) is turned immediately to NH4 (solid) and is absorbed onto the soil particle.
The problems come when there is no soil particle for the NH4 to bind with. It usually takes 0.50 inches of rain or irrigation to fully dissolve and incorporate urea into the soil. So if we only get a few tenths or hundredths, even heavy dews, some of the urea will dissolve, be converted to NH3 then NH4 and be left on the plant/residue. When the moisture dries, some or all of the NH4 goes back to NH3 and will gas off into the atmosphere. I have even seen this happen when urea is applied on a wet/damp soil, not incorporated and it doesn’t rain for significant period of time. If the temps are cooler the urease is slower so less of the urea is converted to NH4, but if the temps are warm 60+ degrees these little enzymes can act very quickly.
Below is a short video on using urea fertilizer.
While the recent rains are a blessing and will surely help germination, it is not aiding our N use efficiency especially in no-till. That is why in some parts of the state you may see some grain drills running right now. Some of those producers are not planting wheat they are actually applying there pre-plant urea. I have even been told in the SW part of the start some producers are using air-seeders to apply their urea. While this seems like a costly venture I have worked with the Ag Economist to create a calculator to figure up the break even for when it would pay to use an air-seeder over the traditional spinner spreader in no-till. We hope to put the finishing touches on it in the next few days. When it is completed it will be shared on this blog.
Liquid Urea Ammonium Nitrate, 32-0-0 or 28-0-0: while this is one of the more expensive forms of N many producers are utilizing this source because the can pre buy and store on site and as sprayer get larger they can cover a significant amount of ground quickly. For the most part UAN is used in no-till and is a great source. I always recommend that applicators use streamer nozzle or streamer bars to apply UAN. When UAN is applied via a flat fan nozzle it spreads the fertilizer across the residue allowing a significant portion to be tied up. The streamers concentrate the fertilizer into streams/bands reducing contact with residue and increasing the amount of UAN that reaches the soil surface.
Timing and Rates
The cost of anhydrous, about $0.1 to 0.12 less per pound N less than urea is driving its use this year. The lower price is also driving a significant about of producers to go with 100% of their N pre-plant. While this makes for sound economics now having all of your N upfront is like putting all of your eggs in one basket. If we do get that cold and wet winter as some are calling for this presents a great chance for the N to move down the soil profile and down the slope. I have always recommended split application. This allows a producer to judge the crop throughout fall, winter and even yearly spring and adjust his or her N plan accordingly. For those who plan to graze there is still a need to get enough N down to produce fall forage, this may be 50 to 80 lbs of N, but for grain only production planted later in the fall a typical crop may only need 20-30 lbs of N before going into winter. The old rules of thumb, 2 lbs N per bushel and 30 lbs N per 100 lbs of gain still work and are better than a guestimate but we have better ways. Right now is the time to plan to apply N-rich strip, a strip in the field with 40 to 50 lbs more than the rest of the field. These strips can be applied with a variety of applicators, but as long as the N goes down in at least an area 10 ft wide by 300 ft long it is good to go.
Below is a N-Rich Strip 101 video.
If you have got the N-Rich strips out you can set back and watch to see when and if they develop. If you can see the strip you know you need too fertilize.
While many are not ready to think about top-dressing yet, it is never too early. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Oklahoma’s springs tend to present the perfect conditions for N loss when urea is the primary N source. This year in a 4R Top-dress Nitrogen Application Demo, at Lahoma and Chickasha, we are going to apply just about every available commercial source in about every possible manor. Urea will be broadcast, coated with inhibitors, applied with a grain drill, NH3 will be knifed in, and UAN will be applied with flat fan nozzles, streamer nozzles and knifed in. As technologies improve and the cost of N remains relatively high the options for top-dress N application will continue to improve. The economics of wheat production don’t look great right now so don’t be afraid to think outside the box, even if it does raise the eyebrows of your neighbors. Fill free to contact myself or your local extension educator if you have any questions about N application.
In the spring of 2014 we initiated what was to be the first year of a three year project evaluating starter fertilizers for soybean production in the southern Great Plains. The first and second year was and is being funded by the Oklahoma Soybean Board.
Year one was a bit experimental in that with so many products on the market we needed some initial work to help focus the direction for years two and three. I also added a treatment which I knew would have significant negative impact, for extension reasons. Keep in mind two locations in a single year does not make an experiment nor provide enough information to draw a definite conclusion. It is however enough to learn some lessons from and for us to plan for our 2015 trials.
The 2014 trial consisted of 12 treatments, Figure 1 and Figure 2. In these treatments I wanted to see the impact of a standard practice, see if a specific nutrient may be more so beneficial, and evaluate a few popular products. The spring of 2014 started out dry so at one of our two locations we pre-watered. This was done by hauling water to the Lake Carl Blackwell (LCB) 1000 gallons at a time and pumping through sprinklers. The other site, Perkins, we delayed planting until we had moisture.
The two locations were also selected due to differences in soil fertility. The LCB site is has good soil fertility, with exception of phosphorus (P), and the Perkins site pH was an issue. I would have expected a benefit from adding P at both of these locations. Figure 4 shows the soil test results.
At LCB as expected some of the treatments (Thio-Sul) reduced stand, some unexpectedly reduced stand (Fe) and others had less impact on stand (APP 5.0) than expected. The growth at LCB was tremendous, the 30 in rows covered over very quickly and the majority of the treatments hit me waist high by early August (I am 6’0”). Many of the treatments showed greater growth than check. But when it comes down to it, grain pays and green does not. Statistically there were no treatments that out preformed the un-treated check, however the K-Leaf and 9-18-9 did make 3 and 2 bpa more than the check respectively. What I am hypothesizing at this site is that the added nutrients, especially those with high P levels, significantly increased vegetative grown and these big plants were delayed into going reproductive and they started setting pods later in much hotter weather. While riding in the combine I could see that the plots with compact plants with clearly defined rows out yielded those were the vines had crossed over and we harvested through more of a solid mat of mature plants. A hot August is not uncommon and I am curious on whether this trend repeats itself. If it does this may direct us into research evaluating ways to force/promote the reproductive stage to start in these big plants. Even if we can force flowering to start earlier, it’s unknown whether yields will increase or not.
The same trends in treatments reducing stand can be seen at Perkins, however the impact was less extreme. Perkins being planted later due to waiting on moisture forced a later flowering date and I believe reduced overall yields. But the addition of P at this low pH site definitely made a difference. While again no treatments were statistically greater than the un-treated check the 2.5 gpa APP, DAP broadcast, APP/H2O, and Pro-Germ/H20 treatments increased yield by 5.6, 4.2, 3.8 and 1.7 bpa respectively.
Take home from year one was that at LCB the addition of a starter fertilizer had little benefit and if done wrong could cost you yield while at the low pH site of Perkins an addition 2.5 gallons of APP did get a 5 bpa bump, but do to variability in the trial the increase was not statistically significant. This year we will drop some of the treatments and incorporate a few new treatments. Based on the current weather we look to potentially being able to start with better soil moisture at planting. Again do not take this work and significantly adjust any plans you have for your 2015 soybean crop. This is however some interesting findings that I wanted to share and make everyone aware of. Finally thank you to the Oklahoma Soybean Board for providing funding for this work. www.oksoy.org/
When I started writing this blog (3.13.2105) Ok grain elevator cash bids for grain sorghum aka milo was 6.61-7.70 cwt (3.7-4.31 per bushel) and corn was at 3.64-4.06 per bushel. Meaning there is currently a premium on sorghum grain. This difference among other things has increased the interest in planting sorghum. Of late I have been quite successful, at least on a small-scale, at producing sorghum yield in the 120-150 bpa range, thanks to the advice of Rick Kochenower former OSU sorghum specialist. Both of us believe that every year many producers are leaving significant bushels on the table due to one or two miss steps. I wanted to take this opportunity to share what is in my opinion the keys in producing a bumper sorghum crop. I should note that the primary key is out of our control, rain.
Key 1. Planting date, the optimum planting date for grain sorghum is generally when soil temperatures reach 60° F and increase after planting. For much of the region that I believe is best suited for sorghum this falls between April 1 and April 15 for south of I40 and April 15 and May 1 north of I40. graph below shows the long-term average daily 4″ soil temp (bare soil) for Apache, Blackwell, Cherokee, and Vinita. It is easy to see how your location within the state can impact soil temps.
You should not forget however that tillage practices will also impact soil temps. The two graphs below show the long-term average daily 4″ soil temp for Cherokee and Blackwell for both bare soil and under sod. Note that when the soil is covered by residue it warms slower. The two figures also show that residue will have more impact in some areas more so than others.
My best word of advise is to keep a watchful eye on the Mesonet. While the long-term average is nice to know here in Oklahoma the difference in weather from one year to the next can be huge. The figure below shows the average daily 4″ soil temp (below sod) from Blackwell for the past five years. Link to Mesonet Soil Temp page Click here.
Another great resource is a report on planting date written by Rick Kochenower presented to RMA. Link to report.
Key 2. Hybrid selection, primarily maturity group selection. Rick has created a great graphic that helps put a planting date window with maturity group. It is always important to visit with your local seed dealer to find out what has been performing best in your region and consider the importance of stay-green, standablilty and disease packages. But for me the number one key is the selection of maturity group. This should be based upon planting date and harvest strategies. Below is a great graphic created by Rick, while this may not be scientific it is a great guide created via years of experience. I also recommend that if you are planting a significant amount of acres you should diversify your maturity groups. Not only does this spread out he harvest window but it also you to spread the risk of high temps coming early or late. An additional resource is the Sorghum Performance trial summary located on the Ok Panhandle Research and Extension Center website. Click here.
Key 3. Soil Fertility, while soil pH plays a big role on sorghum productivity but it is too late in the game to do much about it this year. So the most important things to keep in mind on fertilizing sorghum are your macro-nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). It is my opinion that historically producers have underestimated the yield potential of sorghum and therefore lost yield due to under application on N. You should expect more than 60 to 80 bushel out of your crop if you put the right seed in the ground, at the right time and in the right way.
Ask around look at Rick’s yield data, producers in N. Central Ok on a good soil should be going for 125+ bpa easy. Unfortunately you are unlikely to hit these yield levels if you fertilize for a 75 bpa crop. An easy rule of thumb on N fertilization is 1.2 lbs of N per bushel, for a more exact number take a look at the image below. This comes from the corn and sorghum PeteSheet and is the same table that comes from the Soil Fertility Handbook. (If you would like some Pete Sheets just send me an email requesting them at firstname.lastname@example.org, Link to PeteSheets page).
Key 4. Weed Control With sorghum utilizing a pre-plant herbicide with residual is extremely important due to the lack of over the top options. Most times proper weed control will be accomplished by utilizing concept treated seed and use of labeled rates of a pre-emergent grass control herbicide combined with atrazine.
While I primarily focus of the four keys above there are a few other important items to consider.
Population: Prefer to think in terms of seeds per acre instead of lbs per acre. This comes into to play with the use of a planter. Rick Kochenower says “for seeding rate(on 30 inch rows), it isn’t as critical as most people think it is. Because most guys in Oklahoma tend to under plant not over plant. I always suggested 45,000 but as you look at the last slide it really don’t matter much. The way I always liked putting it is to make you sure have enough out there to not have to replant, because being late hurts more than having to few too many or too few plants.”
Row spacing: I like 30, but many may not have a planter so I suggest at least plugging every other hole in the drill to be at a 12″-20″ spacing. Make sure your population is correct for your row spacing. For this consult with your local seed dealer to match cultivar with row spacing and proper population.
Insects: Scouting for aphids and head midge is very important, these little critters are yield robbers and can gum up the works at harvest.
Harvest prep: I almost put this as the fifth key. By chemically maturing/terminating your crop you are both able to increase harvest efficiency and preserve moisture for a following winter crop of wheat or canola.
While this is a good start I suggest a visit with your local OSU Extension educator, consultant or seed dealer for information about your specific situation. Just know the crop has great potential to yield big if treated right. I like to say don’t treat your sorghum crop like the stray you adopted, treat it like your hunting dog that you traveled halfway across the country to pick up. Good luck in 2015 and I hope the rains fall when and were needed.
This article is written by Dr. Jason Warren, OSU Soil and Water Conservation State Extension Specialist.
The drought has caused numerous negative impacts on Agriculture in Oklahoma. However its impact on our ability to renovate some types of Saline and/or Sodic soils has been a positive. Saline and sodic seeps are referred to by many names, including: salt spots, alkaline spots or slick spots. They are all similar in that they contain excessive amounts of salt or sodium that prevent plant growth. However there are various differences that influence how we renovate these sites.
These areas are classified by the amount and type of salt present. Saline soils are those that contain an EC greater than 4000 μmhos/cm and less than 15% Exchangeable sodium. A Saline/sodic soil contains an EC greater than 4000 μmhos/cm and greater than 15% exchangeable sodium. Lastly, the Sodic soils contain less than 4000 μmhos/cm and greater than 15% exchangeable sodium. Given these differences it is important to have soils from these barren areas tested before a renovation plan is developed. The soil tests will provide recommendations for renovation and more detail on these strategies can be found in factsheet PSS-2226.
Beyond the classifications briefly mentioned above there are different ways in which these saline and sodic soils form. Some of these soils are formed from parent material that contained excessive salt or sodium. Others are formed when ground water moves to the surface through evaporation and deposits salt as the water is lost to the atmosphere. The drought conditions we are current experiencing can impact our ability to renovate the latter.
Figure 1: The upper picture was taken in Feb. 2011 and the bottom picture was taken in April 2013.
Hydraulic seeps, those formed from the movement of groundwater to the surface, are often found in low lying areas of the landscape where the groundwater is close enough to the soil surface that water can be conducted through capillary force to the soil surface. These forces are similar to those that allow use to suck water up through a straw but in the case of a saline seep evaporation from the soil surface provides the hydraulic gradient that pulls water from the water table. The drought has caused the water table in many areas to subside and become too deep for these force to pull water to the surface and deposit salts.
Figure 1 shows a saline/sodic soil in 2011 and again in 2013. This site had been treated with Gypsum as described factsheet PSS -2226 in 2007. However, because of a shallow water table that persisted until the onset of drought in 2011 the renovation effort was not successful because there was insufficient movement of water through the profile to leach the salts down out of the soil surface. These soils are in proximity to Stillwater Creek and Lake Carl Blackwell. The water table has declined which allows limited rainfall experienced at this site in 2012-13 to move the salts down out of the soil surface. This in turn has allowed crop establishment further improves water infiltration by protecting the soil from crusting.
The drop in most water tables across Oklahoma, particularly western Oklahoma where these salt spots are most common, provides for a unique opportunity to renovate hydraulic salt spots. Again the first course of action is to collect a soil sample to determine what types of salts are present. You can also make an effort to determine how the salt spot was formed. This information can be found on the soil survey at http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm. Your county extension educator or local NRCS can help to interpret this information.
We have observed that our success in renovating a hydraulic seep near Stillwater was greatly improved during this period of drought. However, given the fact that our sub soils are generally dry throughout Oklahoma, which improves our ability to leach salts, the drought should improve our ability to renovate those formed from parent material as well.