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osunpk

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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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
ruizdiaz@ksu.edu

 

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.

Summary

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
ruizdiaz@ksu.edu

PELLETIZED LIME – HOW QUICKLY DOES IT REACT

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.

Summary

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

lmurdock@uky.edu
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

 

Poly versus Ortho another year of data from Iowa

Guest Author, Dr. Jake Vossenkemper; OkState Grad and Agronomy Lead, Liquid Grow Fertilizer

Updated Research Comparing Ortho/Poly-Phosphate Ratios for In-Furrow Seed Safe Starter Fertilizers. Last years post Link

Article Summary

  • Ortho-phosphates are 100% plant available, but a high percentage of poly-phosphates in starter fertilizers convert to ortho-phosphate within just two days of application.
  • This quick conversion from poly- to ortho-phosphate suggests expensive “high” ortho starter fertilizers are not likely to result in increased corn yields compared to seed-safe fluid starters containing a higher percentage of poly-phosphate.
  • On-farm field studies conducted near Traer, IA in the 2016 and 2017 growing season found no statistical difference (Pr > 0.05) in corn yield between conventional and high ortho-phosphate starters in either year.
  • High ortho starters cost more per acer than 50/50 ortho:poly starters, but do not increase corn grain yields.

Polyphosphates Rapidly Convert to Plant available Orthophosphates

Given polyphosphates are not immediately plant available and orthophosphates are immediately plant available, this gives the promoters of “high” orthophosphate starters ample opportunity to muddy the waters. Nevertheless, the facts are, polyphosphates are rather rapidly hydrolyzed (converted to) into orthophosphates once applied to soils, and this hydrolysis process generally takes just 48 hours or so to complete.

In September of 2015, we posted a blog discussing some of the more technical reasons why the ratio of ortho to polyphosphates in starter fertilizers should have no impact on corn yields. For those that are interested in the more technical details, we encourage you to follow this link to the September 2015 blog post.

While we was relatively certain that the ratio of ortho to polyphosphates in liquid starters should have no effect on corn yields, we decided to “test” this idea with on-farm field trials located near Traer, IA in the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons.

How the Field Trial Was Conducted

In these field trials, we used two starters applied in-furrow at 6 gal/ac. Each starter had an NPK nutrient analysis of 6-24-6. The only difference between these two starters was the ratio of ortho to polyphosphates. One of these starters contained 80% orthophosphate and the other contained just 50% orthophosphate. With the remainder of the phosphorus source in each of these two starters being polyphosphate. Each plot was planted with a 24-row planter (Picture 1) and was nearly 2400 ft long. In both the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons the experimental design used was a randomized complete block with 4 or 5 replications.

Field Trial Results

Averaged over the side-by-side replications there was less than 1 bu/ac difference in corn grain yield between the high ortho and low ortho polyphosphate starters in both the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons. In addition to finding no differences in grain yield between these two starters, the high ortho starters generally cost about $1 more per/gal (so the $6/ac difference in price at a 6 gal/ac rate) than the low ortho starters. So the more expensive high ortho starter clearly did not “pay” its way in our multi-year field trials.

More Trials Planned for 2018

While our findings agree with other research-comparing ortho and polyphosphate starter fertilizers (Frazen and Gerwing. 1997), we want to be absolutely certain that our fertilizer offerings are the most economically viable products on the market. Therefore, we have decided to run this same field trial at one location in northern, IL in 2018, and at one location in central, IA in 2018. Stay tuned for those research results next fall.

References
Franzen D. and J. Gerwing. 2007. Effectiveness of using low rates of plant nutrients. North Central regional research publication No. 341. http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/nutrient-management/fertilizer-management/docs/Feb-97-1.pdf (accessed 8 of Sept 2015).

A big Thank You to Dr. Vossenkemper for sharing this article with us.
The original article and his contact can be found at Link

Comparing Ortho/Poly-Phosphate Ratios for In-Furrow Seed Safe Starter Fertilizer

Guest Author, Dr. Jake Vossenkemper; Agronomy Lead, Liquid Grow Fertilizer

New Research Comparing Ortho/Poly-Phosphate Ratios for In-Furrow Seed Safe Starter Fertilizers

Article Summary

  • Ortho-phosphates are 100% plant available, but a high percentage of poly-phosphates in starter fertilizers convert to ortho-phosphate within just two days of application.
  • This quick conversion from poly- to ortho-phosphate suggests expensive “high” ortho starter fertilizers are not likely to result in increased corn yields compared to seed-safe fluid starters containing a higher percentage of poly-phosphate.
  • A field study conducted near Traer, IA in the 2016 growing season found less than 1 bu/ac yield difference between a 50/50 ortho:poly starter and high ortho-phosphate starter.
  • High ortho starters cost more per acer than 50/50 ortho:poly starters, but do not increase corn grain yields.

Poly-phosphates Rapidly Convert to Plant available Ortho-Phosphates

Given poly-phosphates are not immediately plant available and ortho-phosphates are immediately plant available, this gives the promoters of “high” ortho-phosphate starters ample opportunity to muddy the waters. Nevertheless, the facts are that poly-phosphates are rather rapidly hydrolyzed (converted to) into ortho-phosphates once applied to soils, and this hydrolysis process generally takes just 48 hours or so to complete.

In Sept. of 2015, I posted a blog discussing some of the more technical reasons why the ratio of ortho- to poly-phosphates in starter fertilizers should have no impact on corn yields. For those that are interested in those more technical details, I encourage you to follow this link to the Sept. 2015 blog post: https://www.liqui-grow.com/farm-journal/.

While I was relatively certain that the ratio of ortho- to poly-phosphates in liquid starters should have no effect on corn yields, I decide to “test” this idea with a field trial in the 2016 growing season conducted near Traer, IA.

How the Field Trial Was Conducted

In this field trial, we used two starter products applied in-furrow at 6 gal/ac. Each starter had an NPK nutrient analysis of 6-24-6. The only difference between these two starters was the ratio of ortho- to poly-phosphate. One of these starters contained 80% ortho-phosphate and the other contained just 50% ortho-phosphate with the remainder of the phosphorous source in each of these two starters being poly-phosphate. Each plot was planted with a 24-row planter (Picture 1) and plot lengths were nearly 2400 ft. long. In total, there were 5 side-by-side comparisons of the two starter fertilizers that contained different ratios of ortho- to poly-phosphates.

Field Trial Results

In general, there were no large differences in yield between the two starters in any of the 5 side-by-side comparisons, except for comparison number 5 (Figure 1). In comparison number 5, the 50% ortho/50% poly-phosphate starter actually yielded 6 bu/ac more than the high ortho starter. But averaged over the 5 side-by-side comparisons, there was less than 1 bu/ac yield difference between the high and low ortho starters (P=0.6712).

In addition to finding no differences in grain yield between these two starters, the high ortho starters generally cost about $1 more per gallon (so $6/ac at a 6 gal/ac rate) than the low ortho starters. So the more expensive high ortho starter clearly did not “pay” its way in our 2016 field trial.

More Trials Planned for 2017

While our findings agree with other research-comparing ortho- and poly-phosphate starter fertilizers (Frazen and Gerwing. 1997), we want to be absolutely certain that our fertilizer offerings are the most economically viable products on the market. Therefore, I have decided to run this same field trial at one location in northern Illinois in 2017, and at one location in central Iowa in 2017. Stay tuned for those research results this fall.

Picture 1
Planting starter fertilizer trials near Traer, IA in the growing season of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 side-by-side comparisons of corn yield from two 6-24-6 starter fertilizers that contained either 50% ortho & 50% poly-phosphate or 80% ortho and 20% poly-phosphate. The field trial was conducted near Traer, IA in the growing season of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Franzen D. and J. Gerwing. 2007. Effectiveness of using low rates of plant nutrients. North Central regional research publication No. 341. http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/nutrient-management/fertilizer-management/docs/Feb-97-1.pdf (accessed 8 of Sept 2015).

Soil calcium and magnesium levels: Does the ratio make a difference?

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

Is it important to have the proper ratio of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) in the soil? Producers may ask this question as they have their soil tested for nutrient levels in the summer before wheat planting begins. This question may also arise at the moment of lime purchase, which can be an important source of Ca and Mg.

Calcium and Mg are plant-essential nutrients. All soils contain Ca and Mg in the form of cations (positively charged ions, Ca++ and Mg++) that attach to the soil clay and organic matter; these are also the forms taken up by crops. The relative proportion of these elements, as well as the total amount in the soil, depends mainly on the soil parent material. In Kansas soils, the levels of Ca and Mg are typically high and crop deficiencies are rare.

Soils typically have higher Ca levels than Mg. Table 1 gives the amount and ratios of Ca and Mg for some soils in Kansas. Both nutrients are present in large quantities. Unusual cases of Ca or Mg deficiencies may be found in areas of very sandy soils.

Table 1. Calcium, magnesium, and Ca:Mg ratio for several Kansas soils
Ca Mg Ca:Mg ratio
Soil cmol/kg
Canadian-Waldeck 42 11 3.7
Carwile 22 4 5.2
Chase 198 30 6.7
Crete 111 29 3.8
Harney 202 15 13.2
Harney-Uly 200 12 16.1
Keith 127 38 3.3
Las 176 37 4.8
McCook 35 8 4.5
Onawa 163 28 5.8
Ortello 19 6 3.3
Parsons 80 23 3.5
Tully 158 38 4.2

 

Why would the ratio of Ca to Mg be important? The concept of an optimum Ca:Mg ratio started in the 1940s under the “basic cation saturation ratio” theory. The theory is that an “ideal soil” will have a balanced ratio of Ca, Mg, and potassium (K). According to this theory, fertilization should be based on the soil’s needs rather than crop’s needs — focusing on the ratio of crop nutrients present in the soil. This concept of an ideal Ca:Mg ratio has been debated by agronomists over the years. The suggested ideal ratio according to the theory is between 3.5 and 6.0, but this has never proven to be of significance.

There is very little research evidence to support any effect, either positive or negative, of the soil Ca:Mg ratio on crop production and yield. What research studies have been conducted in the laboratory and in the field show no effect of Ca:Mg ratio on crop yield. Despite this, the promotion of the ratio concept persists today. Furthermore, the initial work that derived this concept did not differentiate between crop response (alfalfa) due to the change in Ca:Mg ratio and the improvement in soil pH from lime application. It is reasonable to conclude that crop response can be expected from changes in soil pH rather than any change in the ratio of Ca:Mg.

One example of research conducted on this topic over the years is shown in Table 2. In that experiment, McLean and coworkers demonstrated the lack of relationship between Ca:Mg ratio and crop yield for several crops. The range of Ca:Mg ratios observed for the highest yields were not different from those observed for the lowest yields. The conclusion from that study was that to achieve maximum crop yield, attention should center on providing sufficient levels of these nutrients rather than attempting to find an adequate ratio. Therefore when these nutrients are present in optimum levels for plant growth, the relative ratio in the soil seems irrelevant.

Table 2. Ratio of Ca:Mg for five crop-years comparing the highest and lowest yields obtained
Corn Corn Soybean Wheat Alfalfa Alfalfa
Yield level Ca;Mg ratio
Highest five 5.7 – 26.8 5.7 – 14.2 5.7 – 24.9 5.7 – 14.0 5.7 – 26.8 6.8 – 26.8
Lowest five 5.8 – 21.5 5.0 – 16.1 2.3 – 16.1 6.8 – 21.5 8.2 – 21.5 5.7 – 21.5

Adapted from: McLean, E.O., R.C. Hartwig, D.J. Eckert, and G.B. Triplett. 1983. Basic cation saturation ratios as a basis for fertilizing and liming agronomic crops. II. Field studies. Agronomy Journal 75: 635-639.Ada – 21.veeio of Ca:Mg for five crop-years comparing the highest and lowest yields obtainedto the diseaseeo produced by Dan Don

In conclusion, trying to manage the ratio of Ca:Mg should not be used for a nutrient application or liming program. The center of attention should be to ensure that levels of Ca and Mg in the soil will not limit optimum plant growth. The relative concentration of Ca and Mg in commercial ag lime can be highly variable, and application should be based on the effective calcium carbonate (ECC) to achieve a target soil pH.

Dorivar Ruiz-Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist
Kansas State University
ruizdiaz@ksu.edu

Sugarcane Aphids Numbers are Building in Oklahoma.

Guest Blog:
Jessica Pavlu, Graduate Research Assistant,
Tom A. Royer, Oklahoa State University Extension Entomologist
Co-Editors: Eric Rebek and Justin Talley; Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

On July 12, 2016, we found sugarcane aphids in a sorghum field in Caddo county that had exceeded treatment thresholds. Jerry Goodson, Extension Assistant in Altus, reported finding a sparse colony of sugarcane aphids in Tillman county last week. Most of the sugarcane aphid infestations that we have observed so far are located south of Interstate 40.  We will continue to provide weekly reports of sugarcane activity throughout the rest of the summer growing season.

Oklahoma’s “Sugarcane Aphid Team” (which also includes Dr. Ali Zarrabi, Mr. Kelly Seuhs, Dr. Kristopher Giles from the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, USDA researchers Dr. Norm Elliott and Dr. Scott Armstrong, and Dr. Josh Loftin and Dr. Tracy Beedy from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences), is conducting research to identify effective insecticides, resistant sorghum varieties, best cultural practices to avoid sugarcane aphid, and develop improved sampling and decision-making rules for treatment thresholds.

When scouting, make sure you are finding sugarcane aphid, as it can be confused with yellow sugarcane aphid.  The sugarcane aphid (Fig.1) is light yellow, with dark, paired “tailpipes” called cornicles and dark “feet” called tarsi.  The yellow sugarcane aphid (Fig. 2) is bright yellow with many hairs on its body and no extended cornicles.

Fig 1

Figure 1. Sugarcane aphid

Fig 2

Figure 2. Yellow sugarcane aphid

Currently the suggested treatment threshold for sugarcane aphid is to treat when 20-30 percent of the plants are infested with one or more established colonies of sugarcane aphids. An established colony is an adult (winged or wingless) accompanied by one or more nymphs (Fig 3).

Fig 3

Figure 3. Sugarcane aphid colony

Two insecticides, Sivanto 200 SL, and Transform WD, provide superior control of sugarcane aphid.  Sivanto can be applied at 4-7 fluid ounces per acre.  Transform WG can be applied at 0.75-1.5 oz. per acre.  It is important to achieve complete coverage of the crop in order to obtain the most effective control. Consult CR-7170, Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Sorghum http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/HomePage  for additional information on sorghum insect pest management.

Sorghum “Whorlworm” and “Headworm” Decisions

Tom A. Royer, Extension Entomologist

This week, I received several reports of “worms” feeding in the whorls of sorghum (Fig 4) which I identified as fall armyworms. I rarely recommend that a producer treat for fall armyworms infesting whorl stage sorghum.  Why? because available research suggests that under rain-fed production, whorl feeding rarely caused enough yield loss to warrant treatment costs, AND more importantly, most insecticide applications provide poor control.  The poor control is a result of difficult delivery of the insecticide into the whorl allowing the caterpillars to avoid contact.  However, recent unpublished research shows that some new insecticides may provide effective control of fall armyworm in the whorl, so it is time to revisit my recommendations.

Fig 4

Figure 4. “Whorlworm” damage

 

Recent unpublished research results conducted in irrigated sorghum out of Lubbock suggest that Prevathon®, Besiege®, and Belt® can provide acceptable control of the caterpillars in the whorl (even large caterpillars). Therefore, the second of the two reasons I listed above may no longer be true; they can be controlled.  However, 1: these products were tested on irrigated sorghum 2: they are quite expensive 3: some products may flare sugarcane aphids and spidermites and 4: WE STILL DON’T KNOW HOW THEY IMPACT YIELD, thus, we are still “guessing” with regard to return on investment for control.

How has this information changed my recommendations?  Keep in mind that the research in Texas was conducted in irrigated sorghum with a very high yield potential. Since Oklahoma growers typically grow rain-fed sorghum which has lower yield potential, my suggestion is to examine 30 plants (5 consecutive plants in 6 different locations) and split a few stalks to see where the panicle is located.  If the panicles are close to emerging (boot stage), my “best guess” is to consider treating if 70% or more of the whorls are infested and there are an average of 1-2 live caterpillars present.  Under this scenario, you would be protecting physical damage to the emerging head.

On choosing an insecticide I offer some things to consider. 1: the effective products may or may not be available. 2: some have the potential to flare sugarcane aphids and spidermites.  3: they are all expensive.  Belt is still available for use, but EPA recently requested that Bayer voluntarily remove it from the market. Bayer refused, and asked for an administrative hearing.  On June 1, an administrative law judge upheld EPA’s decision to cancel registration of Belt. Bayer is appealing and is scheduled to receive another review from the Environmental Appeals Board before July 6. If EPA prevails in the appeal process, Belt will no longer be available. However, Bayer says that Belt can still be sold, purchased and used during the appeals process.

I have little information on how Belt affects sugarcane aphids or spidermites. Besiege is a mixture of the active ingredient in Prevathon with an added pyrethroid.  Research in Lubbock suggests that spidermites may flare with Besiege. We also know that any pyrethroid will flare sugarcane aphid. Prevathon has not shown the propensity to flare either spidermites or sugarcane aphids.

We are attempting to obtain data on the effectiveness of, and yield returns obtained from Prevathon to control fall armyworm in the whorl. Until I have more data, I can only say that a producer should carefully consider a decision to control “whorlworms”. The jury is still out as to whether controlling them is economically justified.

With regard to headworms, we have well-designed decision making capability coupled with solid treatment thresholds. USDA and University scientists developed a computer-based program that can calculate an economic threshold for headworms (Fig.5) and provide a simple sampling plan that tells the producer if threshold is reached (Fig.6).

Fig 5

Figure 5. Sorghum headworm

Fig 6

Figure 6. Bucket sampling for headworm

Called the Headworm Sequential Sampling and Decision Support System (http://entoplp.okstate.edu/shwweb/index.htm), it uses input on the plant population, the crop’s worth and the control costs to calculate a treatment threshold.

Now, prepare for the tricky part! If we only had to consider one pest, I would advise selecting the insecticide that works best on that pest.  However, we now have to consider sugarcane aphid in all of our sorghum pest management decisions.  In my opinion, if sugarcane aphid is already starting, a producer must consider using either Transform or Sivanto. That narrows the choice options for combining another product to control headworms because pyrethroids could flare the aphids.

I have reviewed data from multiple years of insecticide trials throughout the SE US. The data suggests that products containing chlorpyrifos provide spotty control of headworms. Data that I have reviewed from other insecticide trials suggests that Prevathon and Blackhawk provide excellent control of headworms and Diamond® was also effective on headworms.  For information on spray mix compatibility, talk to the local sales representatives for the products you have chosen.

Consult CR-7170, Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Sorghum http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/HomePage  for more information.