Many stalks in Nebraska are left ungrazed for various reasons. One reason I’ve heard is the potential impact of increased compaction and reduced yield of the next crop. Nebraska Extension has long-term research addressing this concern…in fact, 16 years of research conducted at the Ag Research and Development Center near Mead. There’s various components to this study and you can view the full report at: http://go.unl.edu/8mp6.
In this study, cattle were allowed to graze corn residue in the spring (February to mid-April) or the fall (November through January) and these treatments were compared to an area not grazed. Corn and soybeans were planted the spring after grazing the residue for 16 years to determine the effect of grazing on the subsequent crop yield.
In the fall grazing treatments, the corn and soybeans were planted no-till. For corn or soybeans planted into the spring grazing treatments, three tillage treatments were also implemented for nine years: no-till, ridge-till, and spring conventional till, after which all treatments were converted to no-till. This result of the tillage by spring grazing treatments for either corn or soybean yield over nine years showed no interaction and suggested the same effect on yield regardless of tillage treatment used after spring grazing.
Spring grazing across all tillage treatments did increase soybean yields statistically (58.5 bu/ac for spring grazed vs. 57.0 bu/ac for ungrazed) and had no effect on corn yields. The results were similar looking at 16 years of grazing vs. not grazing under no-till for both corn and soybeans in the spring; there was no yield effect found for corn and the soybeans showed a slight yield increase with grazing.
Looking at a 10 year period of no-till management for both spring and fall grazed corn residue and subsequent corn and soybean crops, fall grazing statistically improved soybean yields over both spring grazing and no grazing (65.5 bu/ac vs. 63.5 bu/ac and 62.1 bu/ac respectively). No grazing effects were observed on corn yields in either season. All statistics were at the 95% confidence level meaning the researchers were 95% confident any yield differences were due to the treatments themselves vs. random chance.
Regarding compaction, in the fall, the field was typically frozen and the researchers felt any mud and compaction associated with grazing cattle was minimized; highest subsequent soybean yields were achieved with fall grazing. The spring treatment was designed to look more at potential compaction and muddy conditions after spring thaw till right before planting-thus the implementation of different tillage treatments as well. They used a stocking rate consistent with UNL grazing recommendations resulting in removal of half the husks and leaves produced (8 lbs of leaf and husk per bushel of corn grain produced). Results of this study indicate that even with muddy conditions in the spring, grazing increased subsequent soybean yields compared to not grazing regardless of tillage system used and that corn yields were not different between grazing vs. not grazing and regardless of tillage system used in the spring. This study was conducted in Eastern Nebraska in a rainfed environment with yields ranging from 186-253 bu/ac with a 16 year median yield of 203 bu/ac.
Additional Grazing Study
A five year fall grazing study (December through January) was conducted in an irrigated continuous no-till corn field at Brule, NE to determine the effect of corn residue removal via baling corn residue or fall grazing on subsequent corn yields. That environment receives limited rainfall and residue is deemed important for reducing evaporation of soil moisture in addition for catching/keeping snow on fields. Farmers were questioning the effects of any residue removal on subsequent corn yields and the study was implemented.
Treatments were 1) fall grazing at 1 animal unit month/acre (AUM), 2) fall grazing 2 AUM/ac, 3) baled, or 4) ungrazed. The researchers found that residue removal did not affect corn grain yields from 2009-2013 in the continuous corn rotation. There were no statistical yield differences with 5 year average yields of: 152 bu/ac, 155 bu/ac, 147 bu/ac and 148 bu/ac respectively for the above-mentioned treatments.
Radio advertisements, email blasts, and other media are warning of corn diseases and the need for fungicides. Two months of humid, wet weather has allowed for disease development. It’s important to know what diseases truly are in your field before spraying a fungicide, particularly with today’s economics. Here’s what we’re seeing in fields right now in the Clay, Nuckolls, Thayer, Adams county area. Based on the diseases we’re seeing, we would recommend you scout your fields to know whether you have mostly bacterial or fungal diseases present. Consider disease pressure, where on the plant the disease is occurring, growth stage, and economics. We have had southern rust show up in 10 of the last 11 years I’ve been serving in this area. If you spray a fungicide at tassel, you may not have enough residual to ward off southern rust when it appears later, potentially resulting in the need for a second application. In our area thus far, I’m not seeing enough disease pressure in many fields to warrant a fungicide at tassel; consider delaying an application till later for economic and resistance-management reasons. Ultimately this decision needs to be done on a field by field basis. Please also see this UNL CropWatch article regarding fungicide application and corn growth stage. Although I don’t have a photo of it, I’ve also seen common rust in the mid and lower portions of corn canopies thus far.
Determining Your Needs
In the Clay County Fair Open Class flyer printed in the Clay County News, you will find the middle page pulls out and is a survey. Nebraska Extension in Clay County and our Clay County Extension Board have launched a survey to determine programming/information needs you deem critical to you and your families. We know that we provide crop, 4-H, and some horticulture programming and information, but there is much more that Nebraska Extension as a whole provides that we haven’t necessarily offered as much as we could in Clay County.
The survey is meant for those of you in Clay County, if you’d be willing to take less than 5 minutes to fill it out, we’d greatly appreciate it! You can also fill it out online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/clayext. The survey will remain open till the conclusion of the Clay County Fair on July 12 this year. Please pass this information along to Clay County constituents as we’re trying to reach as many people as possible. It really is important that we receive as much feedback as possible. It’s important as the goal is to better serve you-and we can’t do that without your input! Please do take a few minutes and complete this for us as we’ve only had a handful complete it thus far. Thank you and please encourage others to complete it as well!
Corn is approaching or at V7-V8 growth stage. A few weeks ago, we published research results in our UNL CropWatch website. That information can be found in the links below the video. If you are interested in trying this in your field this year, please see the Nebraska On-Farm Research protocals also shown below.
July 1 is the upcoming Weed Science Field Day at UNL’s South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center. The brochure with more information is shown below as photos; please click on the photos to enlarge if they are difficult to read. You may RSVP to Dr. Amit Jhala at (402) 472-1534. Hope to see you there!