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osunpk

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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Using the GreenSeeker after Freeze Damage

After discussions with producers in southern Kansas I felt the need to bring back this past blog.  It seems that much of (not all) the early planted wheat lost a significant amount of biomass during the winter and the N-Rich Strip GreenSeeker approach is producing what looks to be low yield potentials and N-Rate recommendations.  This should be treated much like we do grazed wheat and the planting date should be adjusted, see below.  It is also important to note that in the past year a new wheat calculator was added to the NUE Site.  http://nue.okstate.edu/SBNRC/mesonet.php. Number 1 is the original OSU SBNRC but the #2 is calculator produced by a KSU/OSU cooperative project.  This is the SBNRC I recommend for use in Kansas and much of the norther tier of counties in OK.

Original Blog on Freeze Damage and the GreenSeeker.

Dr. Jeff Edwards “OSUWheat” wrote about winter wheat freeze injury in a receive blog on World of Wheat, http://osuwheat.com/2013/12/19/freeze-injury/.  As Dr. Edwards notes injury at this stage rarely impact yield, therefore the fertility requirements of the crop has not significantly changed.  What will be impacted is how the N-Rich Strip and GreenSeeker™ sensor will be used.  This not suggesting abandoning the technology in fact time has shown it can be just as accurate after tissue damage.   It should be noted GreenSeeker™ NDVI readings should not be collected on a field that has recently been damaged.

A producer using the N-Rich Strip, GreenSeeker™, Sensor Based N-Rate Calculator approach on a field with freeze damage will need to consider a few points.  First there need to be a recovery period after significant tissue damage; this may be one to two weeks of good growth.   Sense areas that have had the same degree of damage as elevation and landscape position often impacts the level of damage.  It would be misleading to sense a area in the N-Rich strip that was not significantly damaged but an area in the Farmer Practice that took a great deal of tissue loss.

Finally we must consider how the SBNRC, available online at http://nue.okstate.edu/SBNRC/mesonet.php, works.  The calculator uses NDVI to estimate wheat biomass, which is directly related to grain yield.  This predicted grain yield is then used to calculate nitrogen (N) rate.  So if biomass is reduced, yield potential is reduced and N rate reduced.  The same issue is seen in dual purpose whet production.  So the approach that I recommend for the dual purpose guys is the same that I will recommend for those who experienced significant freeze damage.  This should not be used for wheat with just minimal tip burn.

To account for the loss of biomass, but not yield, planting date needs to be adjusted to “trick” the calculator into thinking the crop is younger and has greater potential.   Planting date should be move forward 7 or 14 days dependent  For example the first screen shot shows what the SBNRC would recommend using the real planting date.  In this case the potential yield is significantly underestimated.

The second and third screen shots show the impact of moving the planting date forward by 7 and 14 days respectively.  Note the increase in yield potential, which is the agronomically correct potential for field considering soil and plant condition, and increase in recommended N-rate recommendation.  Adjust the planting date, within the 7 to 14 day window, so that the yield potential YPN is at a level suitable to the field the yield condition and environment.  The number of days adjusted is related to the size and amount of loss.  The larger the wheat and or greater the biomass loss the further forward the planting date should be moved.  In the example below YPN goes from 37 bu ac on the true planting date to 45 bu ac with a 14 day correction.  The N-rate changes from 31 lbs to 38 lbs, this change may not be as much as you might expect.  That is because YP0, yield without additional N, also increases from 26 to 32 bushel.

freeze Zero day moveImage 1. Planting date 9/1/2013.  YPN 37 bu ac-1 and N-Rec 31 lbs ac-1.

Freeze 7 day moveImage 2. Planting date 9/8/2013.  YPN 40 bu ac-1 and N-Rec 34 lbs ac-1.

Freeze 14 day moveImage 3. Planting date 9/15/2013.  YPN 45 bu ac-1 and N-Rec 38 lbs ac-1.

This adjustment is only to be made when tissue has been lost or removed, not when you disagree with the yield potential.  If you have any questions about N-Rich Strips, the GreenSeeker™, or the online SBNRC please feel free to contact me at b.arnall@okstate.edu or 405.744.1722.

Components of a variable rate nitrogen recomendation

I recently wrote a article for the  Crops and Soils magazine on the components of a Variable Rate Nitrogen Recommendation. The people at the American Society of Agronomy headquarters were kind enough to make it open access.  What follows in this blog is just a highlight reel.  For the full article visit https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/cns/articles/49/6/24

Components of a variable rate nitrogen recommendation

Variable-rate nitrogen management (VRN) is a fairly hot topic right now. The outcome of VRN promises improved efficiencies, economics, yields, and environmental sustainability. As the scientific community learns more about the crop’s response to fertilizer nitrogen and the soil’s ability to provide nitrogen, the complexity of providing VRN recommendations, which both maximize profitability and minimize environmental risk, becomes more evident.

The components of nitrogen fertilizer recommendations are the same whether it is for a field flat rate or a variable-rate map. The basis for all N recommendations can be traced back to the Stanford equation (Stanford, 1973). At first glance, the Stanford equation is very basic and fairly elegant with only three variables in the equation.

Historically, this was accomplished on a field level through yield goal estimates and soil test nitrate values. The generalized conversions such as 1.2 lb N/bu of corn and 2.0 lb N/bu of winter wheat took account for Ncrop and efert to simplify the process.

 

NCrop

The basis for Ncrop is grain yield × grain N concentration. As grain N is fairly consistent, the goal of VRN methods is to identify grain yield.  This is achieved through yield monitor data, remote sensing and crop models.

 

NSoil

The N provided by, or in some cases removed by, the soil is dynamic and often weather dependent. Kindred et al. (2014) documented the amount of N supplied by the soil varied spatially by 107, 67, and 54 lb/ac across three studies. Much of the soil N concentration is controlled by OM. For every 1% OM in the top 6 inches of the soil profile, there is approximately 1,000 lb N/ac.

efert

Historically, the efficiency at which N fertilizer is utilized was integrated into N recommendations and not provided as an input option, e.g., the general conversion factor for corn of 1.2 lb N/bu. Nitrogen concentration in corn grain ranges from 1.23–1.46% with an average of 1.31% (Heckman et al., 2003) or 0.73 lb N/bu. Therefore, the 1.2-lb value is assuming a 60% fertilizer use efficiency. More recently, recommendations have been to incorporate application method or timing factors in attempt to account for efficiencies.

Summary 

 

While a VRN strategy that works across all regions, landscapes, and cropping systems has yet to be developed, the process of nitrogen management has greatly improved and is evolving almost daily. Those methods that are capable of determining the three inputs of the Stanford equation while incorporating regional specificity will capture the greatest level of accuracy and precision. Ferguson et al. (2002) suggested that improved recommendation algorithms may often need to be combined with methods (such as remote sensing) to detect crop N status at early, critical growth stages followed by carefully timed, spatially adjusted supplemental fertilization to achieve optimum N use efficiency. As information and data are gathered and incorporated and data-processing systems improve in both capacity and speed, the likelihood of significantly increasing nitrogen use efficiency for the benefit of the society and industry improves. The goal of all practitioners is to improve upon the efficiencies and economics of the system, and this should be kept in mind as new techniques and methods are evaluated. This improvement can be as small as a few percentages

 

 

This article is published in the Crops and Soils Magazine doi:10.2134/cs2016-49-0609. The full article includes more details on the components plus concepts of integration.

 

 

2015-16 Wheat Crop Nitrogen Review

From trials to phone calls (and text messages, and tweets, and ect. ect) I have gathered a fairly good picture of this years winter wheat nitrogen story.  And as normal, nothing was normal.  Overall I seen/heard three distinct trends 1) Did not take much to make a lot 2) took a ton to make a lot 3) saw a response (N-rich strip or cow-pow) but fertilizer never kicked in. Covers most of the options, doesn’t it.

P1000542

The N-rich strips really came out over all very good this year.  N-Rich Strip Blog. On average many of those using the N-Rich Strip and SBNRC (SBNRC Blog) producers have been getting in the neighborhood of 1.0-1.3 lbs of N applied per bushel produced.  This year the numbers ran from 0.66 to 2.3 lbs of N per bushel.  In both extremes I believe it can be explained via the field history and the N-Cycle.

N-Cycle

Nitrogen Cycle Pete’s Sheet

In at least two fields, documented with calibrated yield monitors, the N-Rich Strip and SBNRC lead to massive yields on limited N. One quarter of IBA bumped 86 bpa average on 47 lbs of N while a second quarter, also IBA, managed 94 bpa average on about 52 units of N. We are currently running grain samples from these fields to look protein levels.

The other side of the boat were those with N-Rich strip calling for +2.0 lbs N per bushel.  I had received notes from producers without N-rich strips saying that they could predict yield based on the amount of N applied and it was a 2 to 1 ratio.  Not always but many of these high N demand fields where wheat following a summer or double crop or corn or sorghum. While many of the low N demand fields were wheat after wheat or wheat after canola. In a rotational study that had been first implemented in the 2014-15 crop year I saw big differences due to previous crop.  The picture below was taken in early March.  The straw residue in wheat after wheat had just sucked up the nitrogen.  While it was evident the residue from the canola broke down at a much more rapid pace releasing any and all residual nutrients early.

Rotation

The yield differences were striking. The canola rotation benefited the un-fertilized plots by 22 bpa and even with 90 lbs of N applied having canola in the rotation increased yields by 12 bpa.  We are looking and grain quality and residual soil sample now. I am sure there will be a more indepth blog to follow.

Canola Wheat Rotation study year two yield average. yields average across previous years N-rates.

Canola Wheat Rotation study year two yield average. yields average across previous years N-rates.

Another BIG story from the 2015-16 wheat crop was the lack of benefit from any N applied pre-plant. It really took top-dress N this year to make a crop.  Due to our wet early fall and prolong cold winter N applied pre was either lost or tied up late.  Work by Dr. Ruans Soil Fertility Program really documented the lack luster pre-plant N effect. The figure below shows 4 location of a rate by timing student.  The number at the bottom of each graph is a rate by time (30/0 means 30 lbs Pre-0 lbs Top, 60/30 means 60 lbs Pre-30 lbs Top).  At every single location 0/60 beat 60/0. Top-dress N was better than Pre-plant N.

Driver_Raun

Figure 1. Work from Ethan Driver and Dr. Bill Raun. Study looked at rate and timing of N fertilization in wheat. Treatments are ordered by total N applied.

The last observation was lack of response from applied N even though the crop was deficient.  Seen this in both the NE and NW corners.  I would hazard with most of the circumstance it was due to a tie up of applied N by the previous crops residue.  The length at which the winter stretched into spring residue break down was also delayed.

Take Home 

Here it is folks APPLY NITROGEN RICH STRIPS.  Just do it, 18 years of research preformed in Oklahoma on winter wheat says it works. Hold off on heavy pre-plant N even if anhydrous is cheap.  It does matter how cheap it is if it doesn’t make it to the crop.  Will we see another year like 2015-16, do not know and not willing to place money on either side. What we do know is in Oklahoma split applying nitrogen allows you to take weather into account and the N-Rich strip pays dividends.

There are several fact sheets available on top-dressing N and the application of N-Rich strips.  Contact your local Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service county educator to get a copy and see if they have a GreenSeeker sensor on hand.

Herbicide and UAN tank mixed for top-dress

Spring is the time that many wheat producers apply herbicide and nitrogen (N) fertilizer.  For many this can be accomplished in a single pass by tank mixing the herbicide and UAN. In most cases this is an effective practice which eliminates one pass over the field.  There are some scenarios in which this practice is ill advised. One such scenario is high temperatures which would lead to excessive leaf burn and crop damage. The other scenario is no-till and that will be the focus of this article. Ruling out warm temperature tank mixing herbicides and nitrogen, assuming the herbicide can be tank mixed, is a good practice.  No-till on the other hand can be a different issue.

No till drill and ammonia oxide application

Situations with a lot of residue and smaller wheat is common during top-dress.

The problem in no-till comes from the liquid application method needed to apply herbicides, flat flan. To get a good kill with the herbicide the spray pattern needs to have good coverage, i.e a lot of small droplets to ensure maximum surface area impacted.  Unfortunately there are four primary fates of UAN  when applied via flat fan nozzles.  The UAN could be taken directly up into the wheat plant via absorption through the leaves, the UAN could reach the soil and go into the soil solution or absorbed onto the soil itself, the UAN can be taken up by weeds, or the UAN droplet may hit dead plant tissue and be adsorbed into the residue.

20090226-1864

UAN applied with a flat fan will hit a growing plant, the soil, or residue.

The fourth fate of UAN presented is what can make the tank mix less efficient than a two pass system.  In a no-till system any UAN that hits residue should be counted as lost, for the short term. The decision to go with a one pass or two pass system can be aided by evaluating the amount of canopy coverage.  For example if the no-till field has 50% canopy coverage then one could estimate 50% of the UAN applied via a one pass system would be tied up in the residue.  The cost of a second application could then be compared to the lost N.  If 15 gallon of 28-0-0 was being applied then approximately 22.5 lbs of N would be tied up by the straw. At a price of $0.40 per lb on N, that is $9.00 worth of N.  Conversely if the canopy coverage was 80% only 20% or 9 lbs of N would be tied up in the residue. Saving the $3.60 in nitrogen would not justify a second trip over the field. Luckily OSU recently released the Canopeo app which uses a cell phones camera to take pictures and quickly and accurately determine % canopy coverage.  Canopeo is available for iOS and android http://canopeoapp.com/.

In fields with a high amount of residue or limited canopy coverage UAN should be applied with streamer nozzles.  This will concentration the fertilizer into streams which will allow the UAN to have enough volume to move off the residue and into the soil.

So as the decision is being made to tank mix herbicide and UAN or make two passes take into consideration: % canopy coverage, rate of UAN (how much could be lost), cost of UAN per pound, and cost of a second trip over the field.

Below is an excerpt from the publication Best Management Practices for Nitrogen Fertilizer in Missouri; Peter C. Scharf and John A. Lory. http://plantsci.missouri.edu/nutrientmanagement/nitrogen/practices.htm

Broadcasting UAN solution (28 percent to 32 percent N) is not recommended when residue levels are high because of the potential for the N in the droplets to become tied up on the residue. Dribbling the solution in a surface band will reduce tie-up on residue, and knife or coulter injection will eliminate it. Limited research suggests that the same conclusions probably apply for grass hay or pasture. Broadcast UAN solution is also susceptible to volatile loss of N to the air in the same way as urea, but only half as much will be lost (half of the N in UAN solution is in the urea form).

Some thoughts on pre-plant nitrogen and a little outside the box thinking

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 discuss the options traditional and nontraditional.

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 Oklahoma 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.

Graphic of Urea's conversion to plant available ammonium.

Graphic of Urea’s conversion to plant available ammonium.

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.

Urea placed on the surface of a wet soil under two temperature regimes. White text is the number of hours after application.

Urea placed on the surface of a wet soil under two temperature regimes. White text is the number of hours after application.

Urea placed on dry soil, Top row: dry soil no water added, Bottom left, moisture added from subsurface, Bottom right : simulated rain fall event of 1/2". White text is the number of hours after application.

Urea placed on dry soil, Top row: dry soil no water added, Bottom left, moisture added from subsurface, Bottom right : simulated rain fall event of 1/2″. White text is the number of hours after application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Just a few of the applicators used for putting out N-Rich Strips. Not shown is NH3 applicator.

Just a few of the applicators used for putting out N-Rich Strips. ATV Sprayer, Receiver Hitch mounted Sprayer, Road sprayer with a rear boom, pull type spinner, large sprayer, push spreader.  Not shown is NH3 applicator.

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.

 

John Deere double disk drill used to apply urea in-season.

John Deere double disk drill used to apply urea in-season.

WAKO NH3 applicator used for in-season application.

WAKO NH3 applicator used for in-season application.

Sampling for pH and liming in continuous no-till fields

This article is written by Dr. David Mengel, Kansas State University Soil Fertility Specialist. 

One question that commonly comes up with continuous no-till operations is: “How deep should I sample soils for pH?” The next 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

First, sampling depth. Should two sets of samples be taken, at different depths?

Our standard recommendation for pH is to take one set of samples to a 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 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. How deep and how quickly the acidity develops over time is primarily a function of N rate and soil CEC, or buffering capacity.

Where anhydrous ammonia is applied, or liquid UAN is knifed or coulter banded below the surface, an acid zone will develop deeper in the soil, usually 2-3 inches above the release point where the fertilizer is placed in the soil. So if the ammonia is injected 8 inches deep, there will be acid bands 5 to 8 inches below the soil surface. 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 illustrates the effect of a high rate of ammonia placed in the same general area in the row middle on a high CEC soil for more than 20 years.

The actual depth of the acid zone in fields fertilized with ammonia gets tricky as application depth can vary depending on the tool used to apply the ammonia. Traditional shank applicators generally run 6 to 8 inches deep, so a sample for pH measurement could be taken at 3-6 inches or 5-8 inches deep, depending on how deep the shanks were run. The new low-disturbance applicators apply the ammonia 4-5 inches deep. A sweep plow or V-blade applies ammonia only 3-4 inches deep. So sampling depth for pH should really depend on where the acid-forming N fertilizer is put in the soil.

Mengel and West, Purdue Univ.

Mengel and West, Purdue Univ.

 

Liming application methods in continuous no-till

Now, 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 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 4.8. 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 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 got very low, below 4.5, 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 hence performance goes down. So in acid soils weed control may be impacted. We do see that 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? On most of our soils in Kansas we are blessed with 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. There is no reason it won’t work, if you apply enough product each year. 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.

But it is costly. As an example, at a cost of $160 per ton and 1,800 lbs effective calcium carbonate (ECC) per ton, 100 pounds of ECC pel-lime costs $8.80. If it costs $25 per ton to buy, haul, and apply a 50% ECC limestone, that equates to $2.50 per 100 pounds ECC.

If you were applying 100 pounds of urea-based nitrogen, it would take approximately 180 pounds of ECC to neutralize the acidity produced by the N. This would require 200 pounds of 1,800 pound ECC pel-lime or 360 pounds of 50% ECC ag lime. The cost would be around $16 per acre with pel-lime or $4.50 per acre with ag lime. So technically, the pel-lime option is fine. But it would cost more than 3 times as much, at least in this example. You can use your own figures regarding costs and ECC of different lime products available to you to do a similar calculation. Deciding which product to use is a simple economic choice.

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.

Dave Mengel
Kansas State University
Professor Soil Fertility Specialist
dmengel@ksu.edu

Results from 1st year of Soybean Starter Work

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.

Treatment Structure and rates for the 1st year of the Soybean Starter Study.

Treatment Structure and rates for the 1st year of the Soybean Starter Study.

List of fertilizers and products used.

List of fertilizers and products used.

Image taken while planting the Soybean Starter study at Perkins.  A CO2 system was used to deliver starter fertilizers with seed.

Image taken while planting the Soybean Starter study at Perkins. A CO2 system was used to deliver starter fertilizers with seed.

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.

Soil Test results from LCB and Perkins.

Soil Test results from LCB and Perkins.

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.

Yield and Stand counts from the 2014 LCB Soybean Starter Study.

Yield and Stand counts from the 2014 LCB Soybean Starter Study.

The Check plot at LCB were plants noticeably a bit smaller and more yellow than the neighbors with phosphorus.

The Check plot at LCB were plants noticeably a bit smaller and more yellow than the neighbors with phosphorus.

Soybeans at LCB on August 4th.

Soybeans at LCB on August 4th.

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.

Yield and Stand Counts from the Perkins 2014 Soybean Starter Study.

Yield and Stand Counts from the Perkins 2014 Soybean Starter Study.

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/