Nutrient Management, Cover Crops Highlight NNTC

Tips about the value of cover crops and improved methods of fertility application could boost yields, reduce input costs and improve soil quality.

I recently attended the 20th annual National No-Tillage Conference (NNTC) in St. Louis, where more than 900 people came to network and absorb useful tips for improving their no-till systems.

Two topics where I gained the most new information included nutrient management and cover crops. Here’s what I learned.

Protecting Inputs

Lloyd Murdock, a University of Kentucky fertility specialist, had an excellent presentation on management practices that can reduce losses of nitrogen to the environment and increase nitrogen-use efficiency.

Murdock says the timing, placement and form of nitrogen can impact how efficiently it’s being used and how it affects yields. Lloyd’s two best practices for managing nitrogen were:

Split applications, with a portion of it being applied early in the plant’s life cycle, and the remainder close to the plant’s rapid-uptake stage;

Injecting nitrogen below the residue layer.

On our farm, in order to meet these practices, we actually apply nitrogen in three forms.

First, we apply 10-34-0 as a pop-up fertilizer, which is applied under the seed with a special tube in front of the planter frog. This takes care of the nitrogen needs for the young seedling.

Then, we broadcast ammonium sulfate at 150 pounds an acre 1 week before planting. This provides nitrogen to our corn plants from VE to about V4.

Our third, and largest, source of nitrogen is anhydrous ammonia, which is injected 1 week before planting. This source of nitrogen holds well and is then available for the corn plants from V4 to maturity.

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Leverich_jim

Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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