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Since 2008 I have served as the Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist for Oklahoma State University. I work in Wheat, Corn, Sorghum, Cotton, Soybean, Canola, Sweet Sorghum, Sesame, Pasture/Hay. My work focuses on providing information and tools to producers that will lead to improved nutrient management practices and increased profitability of Oklahoma production agriculture

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Soil sample handling practices can affect soil nitrate test accuracy

From Guest Authors,
Bryan Rutter, PhD student and Soil Testing Lab Manager, Kansas State University
Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Soil Fertility Specialist, Kansas State University

The accuracy of a soil test is limited, in part, by the quality of the tested sample. For this reason, strong emphasis is placed on ensuring representative samples are collected in the field. However, these samples must also be handled properly after they have been collected.

Soils are home to a diverse population of microorganisms, many of which help decompose crop residue and cycle nutrients in soils. This nutrient cycling is crucial for crop production, but can skew soil test results if it continues in soil samples after they have been collected.

Microorganisms drive the soil nitrogen cycle

The nitrogen (N) cycle in soils is particularly complex and is strongly influenced by microbial activity and, therefore, temperature and soil moisture conditions. Bacteria and fungi consume organic material and use carbon as an energy source. During this process, N contained in the organic matter undergoes several transformations, ultimately converting it to ammonia. This conversion from organic-N to inorganic-N (NH4+, ammonium) is called “mineralization.” Plants can then take up the ammonium (NH4+), or converted to nitrate (NO3) by certain bacteria through a process known as “nitrification”.

The microbial activity requires moisture and heat, and the processes described above happen more quickly in warm, wet soils than in cold, dry soils. Microbial activity does not stop just because a sample has been collected and put in a bag. This activity continues as long as the environmental conditions are favorable. As a result, soil tests for plant-available N have the potential to change substantially if samples are not handled properly. This is an important consideration for growers because these soil test results are used to determine the profile-N credit and, ultimately, adjust N fertilizer recommendations.

Research study on soil sample storage

A recent study at the K-State Soil Testing Lab illustrates what can happen if sample submission is delayed.  For this study, soil was collected from the Agronomy North Farm (Manhattan, KS) and thoroughly mixed/sieved to homogenize the material. This soil was then placed into sample bags, which were randomly assigned to different combinations of storage temperature and duration. One set of samples was kept in a refrigerator while the other set was kept in a cargo box in a truck bed. To monitor changes in soil test levels over time, three sample bags were removed from the refrigerator and truck box every two days (48 hours) and tested in the lab.

Figure 1. Change in soil test nitrogen parameters over a 14-day storage period. Samples stored in an unrefrigerated cargo box are indicated by purple points. Samples stored in a refrigerator (38F) are indicated by grey points. Graphs by Bryan Rutter, K-State Research and Extension.

Figure 1. Change in soil test nitrogen parameters over a 14-day storage period. Samples stored in an unrefrigerated cargo box are indicated by purple points. Samples stored in a refrigerator (38F) are indicated by grey points. Graphs by Bryan Rutter, K-State Research and Extension.

Figure 2. Difference in the soil test nitrogen credits between refrigerated and unrefrigerated samples over a 14-day storage period. Profile-N credits assume a 24-inch profile soil sample depth, and are calculated as:  N ppm x 0.3 x 24 inches. Graph by Bryan Rutter, K-State Research and Extension.

Take home points from the K-State Soil Testing Lab study:

  • Mineralization and nitrification led to more than a 3x increase in soil test nitrate in the undried and unrefrigerated “Truck Cargo Box” samples (purple points in Figure 1).
  • Soil test nitrogen did not change substantially in refrigerated samples.
  • Profile-N credits calculated from soil test N results were nearly 100 lbs of N/acre higher for the unrefrigerated samples (Figure 2).
  • Improper handling and storage of soil samples can dramatically reduce soil test accuracy and may lead to under or overfertilizing crops.

K-State Soil Testing Lab Recommendations

  • Submit soil samples to the lab as soon as possible, ideally on the same day they were collected.
  • If same-day submission is not possible, samples should be air-dried or placed in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees F or less.

Please see the accompanying article “The challenge of collecting a representative soil sample” for guidance on field soil sampling practices.

For detailed instructions on submitting soil samples to the K-State Soil Testing Lab, please see the accompanying article “Fall soil sampling: Sample collection and submission to K-State Soil Testing Lab”.

For detailed information on how N credits are calculated please see the MF-2586 fact sheet: “Soil Test Interpretations and Fertilizers Recommendations”.

Bryan Rutter, PhD student and Soil Testing Lab Manager

Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Soil Fertility Specialist

The original article can be found on the KSU Agronomy E-update site

Pre-plant Irrigation

Sumit Sharma, Irrigation Management Extension Specialist.
Jason Warren, Soil and Water Conservation Extension Specialist.

Pre plant-irrigation is a common practice in Western Oklahoma to recharge soil profile before growing season starts. Pre-plant irrigation is useful when the irrigation capacity is not enough to meet peak ET demand.  It can also be important to germinate and provide for optimum emergence of the crop.  As such, pre-plant irrigation is not useful when the soil profile is already wet, or soil profile is not deep enough to store moisture, or if planting dates are flexible and can wait until rains can recharge soil profile. Pre-plant irrigation becomes an important consideration if the previous crop had extensive rooting systems, which depleted moisture from deep in the profile. The crops in western Oklahoma especially in the Oklahoma Panhandle depend on stored water in the profile to meet ET demand during peak growth period, especially when well capacities are limited. Deep profiles and excellent water holding capacities of soil found in the region make the storage of a considerable amount of moisture possible. While pre-plant irrigation to recharge the whole profile (which can be 6 feet deep) may not be possible or advised, producers can still use certain tools to assess the stored water in the profile and make decisions on pre-plant irrigation.

A soil push probe (Figure 1) can provide a crude estimate of the moisture in a soil profile. For example, if an average person can push the probe to 2 feet, this means that the first 2 feet of the profile has moisture stored in it. The profile beyond 2 feet is considered too dry to push the probe through. This method does not provide the amount of water stored in the profile. For accurate measurements of soil moisture, soil samples could be collected, weighed, dried and weighed again to determine the water content in the soil.  An alternative is to install moisture sensors, however this is usually not practical due to potential damage during planting, although some probes that can be permanently buried are becoming available. On average a clay loam soil in western Oklahoma can hold up to 2 inches of plant available water per foot. The approximate water holding capacity of your soil can be found on the websoilsurvey.  Your county extension or NRCS personnel should be able to help you navigate this website if necessary.  When the water holding capacity of your soil is known, the use of a push probe can provide a preliminary estimate of soil water content. Probing should be done at multiple locations in the field on both bare and covered (with crop residue) spots. The presence of crop residue reduces evaporation and increases infiltration so the first thing you will notice is that it is generally easier to push the probe into the surface where the ground is covered by residue. If the soil water content is near full the probe will be easy to push into the soil and it may even have mud on its tip when you pull it out. In this case you can estimate that the water content to the depth of penetration is near field capacity and that the current water content is equal to the water holding capacity.  For example, if you can push the probe 2 ft into a soil with a water holding capacity of 2 inches/ft then we expect to have 4 inches of plant available water.  In contrast if it takes some effort to push the rod 2 ft the estimated water content may be reduced. 

Figure 1: A probe pushed in the ground to check profile moisture.

When pre-irrigation is applied it can be useful to assess the increase in the depth to which the probe can be pushed into the soil after the irrigation event.  For example, if 1 inch of irrigation is applied to the soil in the example above, we may expect that after this irrigation event we can push the rode 2.5 ft.  However, in some case we may be able to push the rod 3 ft. The reason being that although we could not push the rod beyond 2 ft before the irrigation event, the soil below this depth was not completely dry.  Therefore, the 1 inch of water was able to move to a depth of 3 ft. This is useful information, telling us that the soil below the depth we can push the rod contains some water and that each inch we apply may drain a foot into the profile.   Generally, we expect the rooting depth of most crops to be able to extract water from at least 4 ft.  Although it is certainly possible to extract water from below this depth, we generally don’t want to pre water our soils to full beyond 4 ft. When we fill the profile with pre water, we are increasing success of the following crop by providing the stored moisture that can offset deficits that may occur in the growing season.  However, we are reducing our opportunity to capture and utilize spring rainfall.  We must consider this when applying pre-irrigation, because if it is followed by rainfall in excess of ET our irrigation efficiency is greatly reduced by the drainage or runoff that can occur.

In-furrow fertilizers for wheat

From Guest Author, Dr. Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist, Kansas State University

Wheat is considered a highly responsive crop to band-applied fertilizers, particularly phosphorus (P). Application of P as starter fertilizer can be an effective method for part or all the P needs. Wheat plants typically show a significant increase in fall tillers (Figure 1) and better root development with the use of starter fertilizer (P and N). Winterkill can also be reduced with the use of starter fertilizers, particularly in low P testing soils.

Figure 1. Effects on wheat tillering and early growth with in-furrow P fertilizer on soil testing low in P. Photo taken in 2020 in Manhattan, KS. Photo by Chris Weber, K-State Research and Extension.

In-furrow fertilizer application

Phosphorus fertilizer application can be done through the drill with the seed. In-furrow fertilizer can be applied, depending on the soil test and recommended application rate, either in addition to or instead of, any pre-plant P applications. The use of dry fertilizer sources with air seeders is a very popular and practical option. However, other P sources (including liquid) are agronomically equivalent and decisions should be based on cost and adaptability for each operation.

When applying fertilizer with the seed, rates should be limited to avoid potential toxicity to the seedling. When placing fertilizer in direct contact with wheat seed, producers should use the guidelines in Table 1.

Table 1. Suggested maximum rates of fertilizer to apply directly with the wheat seed

 Pounds N + K2O (No urea containing fertilizers)
Row spacing
soil textures
Course textures or dry soils

Air seeders that place the starter fertilizer and seed in a 1- to 2-inch band, rather than a narrow seed slot, provide some margin of safety because the concentration of the fertilizer and seed is lower in these diffuse bands. In this scenario, adding a little extra N fertilizer to the starter is less likely to injure the seed – but it is still a risk.

What about blending dry 18-46-0 (DAP) or 11-52-0 (MAP) directly with the seed in the hopper? Will the N in these products hurt the seed?

The N in these fertilizer products is in the ammonium-N form (NH4+), not the urea-N form, and is much less likely to injure the wheat seed, even though it is in direct seed contact. As for rates, guidelines provided in the table above should be used. If DAP or MAP is mixed with the seed, the mixture can safely be left in the seed hopper overnight without injuring the seed or gumming up the works.  However, it is important to keep the wheat mixed with MAP or DAP in a lower relative humidity.  A humidity greater than 70% will result in the fertilizer taking up moisture and will cause gumming or caking within the mixture.  

How long can you allow this mixture of seed and fertilizer to set together without seeing any negative effects to crop establishment and yield?

The effects of leaving DAP fertilizer left mixed with wheat seed for various amounts of time is shown in Figure 2. Little to no negative effect was observed (up to 12 days in the K-State study).

Figure 2. Effects on wheat yield from mixing P fertilizer with the seed. Study conducted in 2019 and 2020 at four sites. Graph by Chris Weber, K-State Research and Extension.

Although the wheat response to these in-furrow fertilizer products is primarily from the P, the small amount of N that is present in DAP, MAP, or 10-34-0 may also be important in some cases. If no pre-plant N was applied, and the soil has little or no carryover N from the previous crop, the N from these fertilizer products could benefit the wheat.

Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist

Chris Weber, former Graduate Research Assistant, Soil Fertility

Sorghum: Late season management and pests emerging

Josh Lofton- Cropping System Specialist

Tom Royer- Extension entomologist/IPM coordinator

Full-season sorghum across the state is reaching maturity, while late-season and double-crop sorghum are at various stages of early reproductive growth.  In the last several weeks, insect pressure has been a major issue throughout the state.  Therefore, growers will be left with several management decisions in the next several weeks.

Harvest management for sorghum:

Sorghum harvest aids or desiccants have been periodically used in sorghum throughout Oklahoma.  Several reasons exist for growers to use these practices; however, two primary reasons include drying down the vegetative portion of the sorghum plant or managing late-season weeds present in field. Most years in the southern Great Plains, as with this one, there is very little need to rapidly dry-down the primary sorghum stem and first tillers.  Higher temperatures, higher winds, and lower humidity will often result in the plant drying at a similar rate to the grain.  Since desiccants have little impact on dry-down of the grain, this can result in rapid stem dry-down potentially leading to lodging issues.  However, later tillers could still be maturing and take much longer to finish grain and dry-down.  Growers have to decide if it is worth waiting for these later tillers prior to harvest.  Often, the presence of wildlife and the risk of lodging will result in growers harvesting closer to when the main stem matures.  Growers can use desiccants to rapidly dry-down these later tillers, which terminates the tillers.  Some grain in these may be harvestable, depending on how close the grain was to black-layer. 

              The second reason for using desiccants is to help manage late-season weeds in the sorghum crop.  Grassy weeds, especially Johnsongrass, are the primary weeds of concern. Currently, few in-season options are available to help control grasses in sorghum.  The problem with Johnsongrass is that  resources developed can be stored over winter in rhizomes for the successive year’s plants.  Using late-season desiccation treatments can limit the transfer of these resources to the storage portions Johnsongrass.  Further information regarding using harvest aids in grain sorghum can be found in PSS-2183 (Using Harvest Aids in Grain Sorghum Production | Oklahoma State University (okstate.edu)).

Sorghum pests emerging:

In recent weeks discussion has focused on armyworms and their impact not only on lawns but crops.  While these can still be a major issue on crops, especially those that are still vegetative. Most of the impact will be in those crops planted late, without a large amount of vegetative growth.  While these are still a major concern, other pests are around.  Stinkbugs have been present in sorghum for several years, but they are not normally at high populations, or are not widespread enough to cause major issues.  However, we experienced an increased number of calls regarding stinkbugs this year.  The particle stinkbug of interest is rice stinkbug.  The question becomes, “When do growers need to think about treating for stinkbugs in sorghum?”  The best fit for Oklahoma sorghum growers for a treatment threshold for rice stinkbug is to sample 30 emerged heads, and treat when the average number is 0.5 to 1 stinkbug per head.  Research based damage thresholds numbers are per acre, not numbers per plant.  Therefore, the 0.5 per head threshold is for higher plant populations, and the 1 per head is for lower plant populations.  A number of products are available for control of panicle feeding bugs in sorghum.

Nitrogen rate and timing for a forage wheat crop. Year 1 Results.

Written by
Mr. Bronc Finch, PhD. Student, Precision Nutrient Management. 
Dr. Brian Arnall, Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist. 
In cooperation with Dr. James Rogers, Noble Research Institute. 

With the amount of wheat acreage in Oklahoma being utilized for grazing cattle, and much of that land grazed completely instead of harvested for grain, many questions have arose regarding the management of grazed cropland. A major question in the management of a graze-out wheat crop pertains to fertilizer management strategies. A study developed in co-operation with the Noble Research Institute is attempting to answer these questions among others. In 2019 the trial was established at three locations: near Lake Carl Blackwell in Stillwater, OSU South Central Research Station in Chickasha, and Noble Research Dupy farm in Gene Aurty, Oklahoma. Each of these three sites were setup with three nitrogen (N) treatments in Gallagher winter wheat, with 2 pre-plant applications of 60 and 120 pounds per acre, and a 60 pound pre-plant and 60 pound top-dress application. Grazing simulation harvests were taken at two times with the top-dress N being applied after regrowth was noticed following the winter season. The Dupy location was planted late and therefore only had a single harvest at the end of the season. Rising plate meter measurement were collected at feekes 7.5 and represented in the graphs below as Mid-season. The Chickasha location revealed unexpectedly high residual soil N levels, which resulted in no differences in dry matter biomass for the first harvest, which was delayed until early march due to excessive rains. The second harvest at Chickasha did show treatment differences with a 0.4 ton difference between the 60 and 120 lbs preplant N rates and increase of 0.8 ton increase over the 120 lb pre-plant when the additional 60 lbs of N was delayed. LCB had a timely first harvest in December resulting in the 120 lb N application outperforming the 60lb N applications by ≥0.33 tons. The second harvest further showed how the split application of N proves beneficial for biomass production. As the split application increased yields by 1.7 and 2.6 tons over the 120 lb and 60 lb preplant applications, respectively. The Dupy location revealed no significant difference in dry matter biomass yield between N treatments at the time of the rising plate meter measurements or for the final cutting.

Figure 1. Dry matter harvest results for each of the harvest dates from the graze out wheat trials from the Chickasha, Lake Carl Blackwell, and Dupy locations for three fertilizer treatments. 60: 60 lbs of nitrogen applied preplant, 120: 120 lbs of nitrogen applied preplant, 60/60: Split application 60 lbs of nitrogen preplant and 60 lbs applied top-dress. Dupy only had one harvest date, the Mid-season yield is estimated via rise-plate measurements taken at Feekes 7.5.


The Chickasha and Lake Carl Blackwell (LCB) locations produced an increase in total yield with both the increase of applied N and the split application of N. The 60 lb increase in applied N at preplant, 60 lbs vs 120 lbs, produced a 0.7 and 1.2 ton increase in total dry matter harvested at Chickasha and LCB, respectively. As expected an increase in N increased the yield of wheat biomass for grazing production. The top-dress application, which was made as a late season post Feekes 6 (hollow stem), produced more biomass for graze-out wheat production. The split application of 60 lbs of N preplant and 60 lbs of N top-dress increased dry matter by .8 and 1.3 tons over 120 lbs applied preplant at Chickasha and LCB, respectively. Chickasha yielded higher biomass production than the LCB location due to increased residual N.

Figure 2. Total dry matter harvest results for the graze out wheat trials from the Chickasha, Lake Carl Blackwell (LCB), and Dupy locations for three fertilizer treatments. 60: 60 lbs of nitrogen applied preplant, 120: 120 lbs of nitrogen applied preplant, 60/60: Split application 60 lbs of nitrogen preplant and 60 lbs applied top-dress.

For the following discussion remember that protein is determined by N concentration, so that a increase in N uptake is the same as an increase in protein. Evaluation of the N uptake (% N in the biomass x amount of biomass harvested) over the season revealed treatment effects at all locations, which was not seen from biomass yield. Chickasha and LCB revealed a 20% or greater increase in N uptake with the 120 lb application over the 60 lb application of N at pre-plant. The late season top-dress application yielded a 3, 27, and 27 percent increase in uptake for Chickasha, LCB, and Dupy locations, respectively, over the 120 lb pre-plant application. Although, these results are expected from these results, there are a few things we did not expect. The 120 lb N application did not increase the N uptake above that of the 60 lb application. However, the split application of N resulted in an additional >40 lbs uptake, aka increased protein.

Figure 3. Total nitrogen uptake results for the graze out wheat trials from the Chickasha, Lake Carl Blackwell, and Dupy locations for three fertilizer treatments. 60: 60 lbs of nitrogen applied preplant, 120: 120 lbs of nitrogen applied preplant, 60/60: Split application 60 lbs of nitrogen preplant and 60 lbs applied top-dress.

This study also includes summer forages with and without additional fertilizer. The study will be continued for multiple years on the same locations to evaluate the impact of management on production and soil characteristics.  But one surprising note has already been made, in all three locations a greatly delay top-dress still increased N-uptake. In two location it significantly increase yield and protein. This data is falling in line with the grain only data (How late can you wait) showing that an application of N at Feekes 6 (Hollow stem) and even shortly after can provide positive return on investments.


For any questions for comments please contact
Brian Arnall


Watch Forage Nitrate Closely on Certain Crops

Nitrate is one of the major nitrogen (N) forms utilized by plants. Excessive nitrate accumulation can occur when the uptake of nitrate exceeds its utilization in plants for protein synthesis due to factors such as over N fertilization and stressful weather conditions. It can be toxic to livestock when too much nitrate is accumulated in the forage crops. Sorghum and millet have been noted as having a high potential for accumulating nitrate. Producers should watch their forage nitrate closely to avoid cattle fatality and to better manage their hay crop since we have seen many high nitrate forage samples every year. Normally, drought stress, cloudy weather and other climatic conditions will enhance nitrate accumulation in the plant. In addition, forage planted in failed wheat fields with high soil residual nitrogen unused by wheat can result in high forage nitrate problem too.

Figure 1. Summary of our laboratory nitrate test results in the past on two major warm season forage crops.

It is considered potentially toxic for all cattle when nitrate in the forage is greater than 10,000 ppm. Producers should avoid grazing or feeding with high nitrate hays. More detailed interpretation can be found from OSU Extension Fact PSS-2903 Nitrate Toxicity in Livestock. The most reliable way to find out nitrate in the hay is to collect a representative sample and have it tested by a laboratory. OSU Extension Fact PSS-2589 Collecting Forage Samples for Analysis highlights the proper techniques to collect forage samples. Samples can be submitted for nitrate and other forage quality analyses to the Soil, Water and Forage Analytical Laboratory in Stillwater through the local county extension office. We normally have the results ready within 24 hours form the time when sample is received by the lab. However, many samples we receive at the lab were not sampled properly. More attention should be paid on sampling standing forage, such as a haygrazer by following the right procedures:

Clip at least 20 representative plants at grazing or harvesting height from the suspected area. Cut the whole plants (include leaves and heads) into 2-3” long pieces, combine and mix well in a bucket.

Fill the cut sample into a forage bag. Use quartering to reduce the amount if there is too much sample to send to a lab.

Put the forage bag into a plastic bag will give you more accurate moisture content, but never put plastic bags inside our forage bags.

There is also a quick screening test using diphenylamine at your county extension office. This video shows how to properly use the test kit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vArUP6KFQFI&feature=youtu.be


Hailin Zhang

Department of Plant and Soil Sciences


Recent Weather Causing Corn (and Sorghum) Injury From Pre-emerge Herbicides

With the brief window of dry ground last week my crew went at full speed planting and applying pre-emergence. Today I am sitting at home with campus closed due to the potential to severe weather with a forecast of 4-6 inches of rain for the areas I planted. Combine the recent planting activities and limited windows for pre-emergence applications, I will not be surprised if we don’t start seeing injury in some of the sorghum that was just planted before the rains. I would also add the over the years I often see bleaching in sorghum, that looks similar to zinc and/or iron deficiency, caused by atrazine injury.  This typically occurs when atrazine is applied prior to a heavy rain. The atrazine is washed down slope and into the rows, the injury is almost always seen in low lying areas.  The crop usually grows out of it.

Atrazine injury in sorghum. Heavy rains followed application. Pic via Rick Kochenower.

Atrazine injury in sorghum. Heavy rains followed application. Pic via Rick Kochenower.

Brian A.

This article is written by Mr. Cody Daft, Field Agronomist Western Business Unit, Pioneer Hi-Bred

Have you noticed any corn leafing out underground prior to emergence? Have you seen tightly rolled leaves or plants that can’t seem to unfurl leaves and look buggy whipped? Almost all of the fields I have looked at recently have shown these symptoms in at least a portion of the field, and some fields this has been very widespread. The common denominator in all the fields I have viewed has been the herbicides applied were a metolachlor (Dual/Cinch type products) and the weather (cooler than normal, wetter than normal). Similar issues can be noted in grain sorghum to some extent.

The recent wet weather and water-logged soils have increased the possibility of corn injury from many popular soil applied herbicides. Corn growing in wet soils is not able to metabolize (degrade) herbicides as rapidly as corn growing in drier conditions. Plant absorption of herbicides occurs by diffusion. What this means is that the herbicide diffuses from locations of high concentration (application site on the soil) to low concentration (plant roots). The diffusion process continues regardless of how rapidly the corn is growing. In corn that is not growing rapidly (cool, wet conditions) corn plants can take up doses of herbicide high enough to show damage and a few differences in symptomology.

The unfortunate aspect of wet soil conditions is that additional stress is put on the plant not only to metabolize herbicide residues, but also to ward off diseases and insects. These additional stresses can impact a corn plant’s ability to metabolize herbicide.

The most common type of herbicide injury observed under these conditions is associated with chloroacetamide herbicides. These herbicides are used for control of grass and small seeded broadleaf weeds, and are seedling root and shoot inhibitors.

These products include the soil-applied grass herbicides such as:

  • Dual/Cinch/Medal II
  • Degree/Harness
  • Microtech/Lasso
  • Frontier/Outlook
  • Define/Axiom
  • And other atrazine premixes like Lumax (a premix of mesotrione (Callisto), s-metolachlor (Dual II Magnum), atrazine and a safener benoxacor).

What About The Injury Symptoms?

Before corn emergence:

  • Stunting of shoots that result in abnormal seedlings that do not emerge from soil.
  • Corkscrewing symptoms similar to cold/chilling injury.
  • Corn plants and grassy weeds may leaf out underground and leaves may not properly unfurl.

After corn emergence:

  • Buggy whipping – leaves may not unfurl properly.

buggy-whipping syndrom

Figure . Buggy-whipping symptom from carryover of PPO herbicides to corn.via https://www.pioneer.com/home/site/us/agronomy/library/herbicide-carryover/



What About Safeners?
Products like DUAL II Magnum herbicide contain the safener benoxacor which has been shown to enhance S- Metolachlor metabolism in corn. This enhanced metabolism can reduce the potential of S- Metolachlor injury to corn seedlings when grown under unfavorable weather conditions such as cool temperature or water stress. However, a safener is not the silver bullet, and slow plant growth may still have trouble metabolizing the herbicide even with a safener…but it does help the severity of damage/symptoms.

Will The Plants Recover?
Plants that have leafed out underground or show corkscrewed mesocotyl symptoms are likely to not recover or even emerge from below the soil. Larger plants that are already emerged that show tightly rolled leaves and are buggy whipped will most likely recover once the field sees drier conditions and we have warm weather and sun light to assist in better plant growth.

More Information Discussing Corn Injury From Pre-emerge Herbicides Here:



Cody Daft
Pioneer Hi-Bred

The challenge of collecting a representative soil sample

Guest Author, Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist Kansas State University

At first glance, soil sampling would seem to be a relatively easy task. However, when you consider the variability that likely exists within a field because of inherent soil formation factors and past production practices, the collection of a representative soil sample becomes more of a challenge.

Before heading to the field to take the sample, be sure to have your objective clearly in mind. For instance, if all you want to learn is the average fertility level of a field to make a uniform maintenance application of P or K, then the sampling approach would be different than sampling for pH when establishing a new alfalfa seeding or sampling to develop a variable rate P application map.

In some cases, sampling procedures are predetermined and simply must be followed. For example, soil tests may be required for compliance with a nutrient management plan or environmental regulations associated with confined animal feeding operations. Sampling procedures for regulatory compliance are set by the regulatory agency and their sampling instructions must be followed exactly. Likewise, when collecting grid samples to use with a spatial statistics package for drawing nutrient maps, sampling procedures specific to that program should be followed.


Figure 1. The level of accuracy of the results of a soil test will depend, in part, on how many subsamples were taken to create the composite sample. In general, a composite sample should consist of 15 or more subsamples. For better accuracy, 20-30 cores, or subsamples, should be taken and combined into a representative sample. F

Regardless of the sampling objectives or requirements, some sampling practices should be followed:

  • A soil sample should be a composite of many cores to minimize the effects of soil variability. Take a minimum of 12 to 15 cores from a relatively small area (two to four acres). Taking 20-30 cores will provide results that are more accurate. Take a greater number of cores on larger fields than smaller fields, but not necessarily in direct proportion to the greater acreage. A single core is not an acceptable sample.
  • Use a consistent sampling depth for all cores because pH, organic matter, and nutrient levels often change with depth. Match sampling depth to sampling objectives. K-State recommendations call for a sampling depth of two feet for the mobile nutrients – nitrogen, sulfur, and chloride. A six-inch depth is suggested for routine tests of pH, organic matter, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and zinc (Zn) (Figure 2).
  • When sampling a specific area, a zigzag pattern across the field is better than following planting/tillage pattern to minimize any past non-uniform fertilizer application/tillage effects. With a GPS system available, recording of core locations is possible. This allows future samples to be taken from the same locations in the field.
  • When sampling grid points for making variable rate nutrient application maps, collecting cores in a 5-10 foot radius around the center point of the grid is preferred for many spatial statistical software packages.
  • Avoid unusual spots obvious by plant growth and/or visual soil color/texture differences. If information on these unusual areas is desired, collect a separate composite sample from these spots.
  • If banded fertilizer has been used on the previous crop (such as strip tillage), then it is suggested that the number of cores taken should be increased to minimize the effect of an individual core on the composite sample results, and to obtain a better estimate of the average fertility for the field.
  • For permanent sod or long-term no-till fields where nitrogen fertilizer has been broadcast on the surface, a three- or four-inch sampling depth would be advisable to monitor surface soil pH



Figure 2. Consistency is sampling depth is particularly important for immobile nutrients like P. Stratification of nutrients and pH can be accentuated under reduced tillage.

Soil test results for organic matter, pH, and non-mobile nutrients (P, K, and Zn) change relatively slowly over time, making it possible to monitor changes if soil samples are collected from the same field following the same sampling procedures. However, there can be some seasonal variability and previous crop effects. Therefore, soil samples should be collected at the same time of year and after the same crop.

Soil test results for organic matter, pH, and non-mobile nutrients (P, K, and Zn) change relatively slowly over time, making it possible to monitor changes if soil samples are collected from the same field following the same sampling procedures. However, there can be some seasonal variability and previous crop effects. Therefore, soil samples should be collected at the same time of year and after the same crop.

Soil testing should be the first step for a good nutrient management program, but it all starts with the proper sample collection procedure. After harvest in the fall is good time for soil sampling for most limiting nutrients in Kansas.

For instructions on submitting soil samples to the K-State Soil Testing Lab, please see the accompanying article “Fall soil sampling: Sample collection and submission to K-State Soil Testing Lab” found in this eUpdate issue.

For any questions Contact.
Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist


Soil sampling for pH and liming in continuous no-till fields

Quest Author, Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist Kansas State University

One question that commonly comes up with continuous no-till operations is: “How deep should I sample soils for pH?” Another common question is: “How should the lime be applied if the soil is acidic and the field needs lime?”.

Sampling depth in continuous no-till

Our standard recommendation for pH is to take one set of samples to a 0-6 inch depth. On continuous no-till fields where most or all of the nitrogen (N) is surface applied, we recommend taking a second sample to a 0-3-inch depth. We make the same recommendation for long-term pasture or grass hayfields, such as a bromegrass field that has been fertilized with urea annually for several years.

Nitrogen fertilizer is the primary driving force in lowering soil pH levels, so N application rates and methods must be considered when determining how deep to sample for pH. In no-till, the effects of N fertilizer on lowering pH are most pronounced in the area where the fertilizer is actually applied. In a tilled system, the applied N or acid produced through nitrification is mixed in through the action of tillage and distributed throughout the tilled area.

Where N sources such as urea or liquid UAN solutions are broadcast on the surface in no-till system, the pH effects of the acid formed by nitrification of the ammonium will be confined to the surface few inches of soil. Initially this may be just the top 1 to 2 inches but over time, and as N rates increase, the effect of acidity become more pronounced, and the pH drops at deeper depths (Figure 1). How deep and how quickly the acidity develops over time is primarily a function of N rate and soil CEC (cation exchange capacity), or buffering capacity.

Where anhydrous ammonia is applied, or liquid UAN banded with the strip-till below the surface, an acid zone will develop deeper in the soil. As with long-term surface applications, these bands will expand over time as more and more N fertilizer is placed in the same general area. The graphic below (Figure 1) illustrates the effect of repeated nitrogen and phosphorus application with strip-till in the same area in the row middle on a high CEC soil for more than 12 years.

Figure 1. Soil pH stratification after 25 years of no-till and surface nitrogen fertilizer application, and the effect of repeated fertilizer application with strip-till in the same area after 12 years.

Liming application methods in continuous no-till

Where do you place the lime in continuous no-till?

If you surface apply N, then surface apply the lime. That’s a simple but effective rule. But remember that surface-applied lime will likely only neutralize the acidity in the top 2-3 inches of soil. So if a producer hasn’t limed for 20 years of continuous no-till and has applied 100 to 150 pounds of N per year, there will probably be a 4-5 inch thick acid zone, and the bottom half of that zone may not be neutralized from surface-applied lime. So, if a producer is only able to neutralize the top 3 inches of a 5-inch deep surface zone of acid soil, would that suggest he needs to incorporate lime? Not really. Research has shown that as long as the surface is in an appropriate range and the remainder of the acid soil is above pH 5, crops will do fine.

Liming benefits crop production in large part by reducing toxic aluminum, supplying calcium and magnesium, and enhancing the activity of some herbicides. Aluminum toxicity doesn’t occur until the soil pH is normally below about 5.2 to 5.5 and KCl-extractable (free aluminum) levels are greater than 25 parts per million (ppm). At that pH the Al in soil solution begins to increase dramatically as pH declines further. Aluminum is toxic to plant roots, and at worse the roots would not grow well in the remaining acid zone.

This implies that the acid zones from ammonia or banded UAN are probably not a major problem. We have monitored ammonia bands in the row middles of long-term no-till for many years and while the pH dropped very low, we never saw any adverse impacts on the crop that would justify liming and using tillage to incorporate the lime. In fact, some nutrients such as zinc, manganese, and iron can become more available at low pH, which can be an advantage at times.

Yield enhancement is not the only concern with low-pH soils, however. Herbicide effectiveness must also be considered. The most commonly used soil-applied herbicide impacted by pH is atrazine. As pH goes down, activity and performance goes down. So in acidic soils, weed control may be impacted. We do see that happen in corn and sorghum production.

Liming products for no-till

When choosing a liming product, is there any value to using dolomitic lime (which contains a large percentage of magnesium in addition to calcium) over a purely calcium-based lime product?

Most Kansas soils have high magnesium content. So as long as we maintain a reasonable soil pH, there normally is enough magnesium present to supply the needs of a crop. Calcium content is normally significantly higher than magnesium, so calcium deficiency is very, very rare in Kansas. The soil pH would need to be below 4.5 before calcium deficiency would become an issue. Before calcium deficiency would occur, aluminum toxicity or manganese toxicity would be severely impacting crop growth. So producers really don’t have to worry about a deficiency of calcium or magnesium on most Kansas soils.

What about the use of pelletized lime as a pH management tool on no-till fields?

The idea has been around for a while to use pel-lime in low doses to neutralize the acidity created from nitrogen and prevent acid zones from developing. . Pel-lime is a very high-quality product, normally having 1800 to 2000 pounds of effective calcium carbonate (ECC) per ton, and can be blended with fertilizers such as MAP or DAP or potash easily. Therefore, if you apply enough product this can be an excellent source of lime. Lime can be from various sources and with different qualities. Consecutively, to ensure a standardized unit of soil-acidity neutralizing potential, we use units of ECC.


Applying N fertilizer to soil will cause the soil to become acidic over time. Placement of the applied N and the level of soil mixing done through tillage determine where the acid zones will develop. Make sure your soil testing program is focused on the area in the soil becoming acidic, and apply the lime accordingly.


For any questions Contact.
Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist


Each year the question comes in about lime source and rate.  To help provide some answers I along with several county educators will be establishing both large scale strip demonstrations and small plot trails on producers fields across Oklahoma.  Data collected from these project over the next four to six years will provide a great basis for future recommendations. But until we have more data I would like to share this article written by Dr. Lloyd Murdock. Dr. Murdock does a fantastic job describing the impact of source and rate on soil pH. Below Dr. Murdock contact is a list of relevant fact sheets and publications produced by Oklahoma State University.

Article written by: Lloyd W. Murdock, Retired Extension Soils Specialist 

Pelletized lime is made by granulating finely ground agricultural (ag) lime. It may be dolomitic or calcitic depending on the nature of the original limestone. The fine lime particles are bonded together with lignosulfonates during the pelletizing process. In general, the pelletized lime contains about 9% lignosulfonates. Pelletized limestone is a product that has been on the market for many years. The price of the material on a per ton basis is considerably higher than bulk ag lime, so its use has mainly been confined to specialty markets, with little use in production agriculture. However, the product is becoming more commonly used in production agriculture. Some questions have been raised about recommended rates of this material and the speed at which it reacts compared to standard ag lime.

How Much Can the Rates be Reduced for Pelletized Lime?

The recommended rates and the effect on soil pH of any agriculture lime product is related to the neutralizing value of the lime, which is a combination of the purity (calcium carbonate equivalent) and the fineness of grind (particle size). As these two properties of lime change, so does the recommended rate of lime and its effect on soil pH. The finer the lime particles and the higher the calcium carbonate equivalent, the more effective the lime and the lower the rate of lime needed to make the desired pH change.

Bulk ag lime sold in Kentucky has an average neutralizing value of 67% when averaged for all quarries. All lime recommendations in Kentucky are based on this value. Therefore, if the neutralizing value of pelletized lime is substantially higher than 67%, then the recommendation should be lower. The information to calculate the neutralizing value should be on the pelletized lime bag, and the method to calculate the neutralizing value can be found in publication AGR-106,University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. For example, a high quality pelletized lime source may have a neutralizing value of 85. If this is the case, the lime rate can be reduced to 78% of what would be recommended for bulk ag lime. This is calculated by dividing the average neutralizing value of ag lime by the neutralizing value of the pelletized lime being used (67 ”85= 0.78). In this case, 1560 lbs/ac of pelletized would be required to equal one ton of ag lime. If less than this amount of pelletized lime is used, the expected soil pH change will probably not be obtained. As can be seen from this example, the recommended rates of pelletized lime cannot be greatly reduced as compared to bulk ag lime.

How Fast Will Pelletized Lime React?

The speed of reaction (rate at which the lime will change the soil pH) is mainly a function of surface area of the lime particles and their contact with the soil. The finer the grind of lime, the more the surface area, and the faster the reaction. Since pelletized lime is pelleted from finely ground lime, it is easy to assume that it will be faster reacting than bulk spread ag lime which has some larger, non-reactive particles as a part of its composition. However, this is not true. Based on research from several states, it appears that the pelletized lime reacts no faster to raise the soil pH than good quality ag lime applied at recommended rates. In fact, incubation studies at Michigan State University found the pelletized lime to have a slower rate of reaction. Field research from other states indicate the rate of reaction is about equal to ag lime.

The slower than expected reaction of pelletized lime is probably due to two things: 1) the lignosulfonate binding, and 2) the distribution pattern. The lignosulfonate binding must break down by solubilization or microbial action before the lime is released to neutralize the soil acidity, which would delay the speed of reaction. When the pelletized lime is spread, it is distributed on the soil in pellets and results in small concentrated zones (spots) of lime after the binder dissolves. The fine, reactive particles of ag lime, in contrast, are spread as more of a dust so that the lime is better distributed and not in concentrated spots. The bulk spreading method will allow the ag lime to contact a larger amount of the soil.


Pelletized lime is an excellent source of high quality lime. Its use in agriculture has been limited due to the price. The recommended rate of pelletized lime should be based on the neutralizing value of the lime and will probably be about 75 to 80% of that for average-quality bulk ag lime. Contrary to popular belief, the speed of reaction of pelletized lime is no faster than that of bulk ag lime. Thus, when comparing the two materials, less pelletized lime is needed to raise the soil pH to the desired level, but the increase in pH is no faster than with ag lime if both are applied on the basis of their neutralizing values.


Lloyd Murdock
Professor Emeritus

Phone (859) 257-9503 x207
Fax (270) 365-2667

Princeton Research & Education Center
1205 Hopkinsville St.,
Princeton, KY 42445-0469


OkState FactSheets.

PSS-2225 Soil Test Interpretations

PSS-2239 Causes and Effects of Soil Acidity

PSS-2240 Managing Acid Soils for Wheat Production

PT 2000-10 Liming Raises Soil pH and Increases Winter Wheat Forage Yields

PT 2002-15 The Risk of Not Liming

PT 2003-8   Lime Acid Soils: What You Should and Should not Expect