Our climate and weather experts speak of the past 60 days as “Nebraska’s most challenging days of weather”. In their article recapping events that have occurred since January 15th, Tyler Williams and Al Dutcher share, “The recent string of weather events is definitely one for Nebraska’s history books. The key word to that sentence is “string” because it took a combination of patterns and extremes to get us to this point. Beginning in mid-January, the weather pattern shifted from warm and relatively wet to a very cold and highly active pattern that brought snow, rain, and ice. This pattern lasted well into March. This almost 60-day period from mid-January to the March 13-14 storms and resulting flood will leave a lasting mark on Nebraska. Following is a description of how this scenario developed…” I would encourage us to read the full article at: https://go.unl.edu/0gbr.
In spite of more crazy weather last week, March did go out like a lamb! It’s hard to believe this week is April. Grateful for signs of greening up and new life after a long, hard winter such as greening wheat, rye, lawns, and new life with buds swelling on trees and various bulbs poking through the ground! For whatever reason, the first signs of green after winter seem so bright and stark to me, perhaps even more so this year!
And, I also realize with April upon us is the added stress that there’s so much to do yet for this growing season. Perhaps a bright spot is that the moisture has allowed for stalk deterioration which helps with the residue management side. Nutrient management is also on growers’ minds. Charlie Wortmann and Bijesh Mahajan, Extension Soil Fertility Specialists, addressed considerations for nutrient management going into 2019 in a CropWatch article as well this week: https://go.unl.edu/7u7u. I’ll share a few thoughts from it here and would encourage you to check out the full article in the link above. For those with wheat, the following addresses top-dressing winter wheat: https://go.unl.edu/pk6f.
Of concern is broadcast applications of phosphorus that occurred on frozen ground in January and February. It’s not a practice we recommend and unfortunately, this year may have resulted in quite a bit of loss as runoff from fields. The only way to really know where you’re at for phosphorus is to do soil samples and they’re recommending 0-8” depth.
For any nitrogen applied last fall, it’s not anticipated to have been lost yet due to the low soil temperatures. However, because of the full soil profile and gravitational water, there’s concern of nitrogen leaching as soil temperatures warm. In May there will be much potential for leaching of nitrate-N when the soil becomes warm enough to allow ammonium-N conversion to nitrate-N. The soil specialists share “residual soil nitrate-N from 2018 is already subject to leaching and that, on average, approximately 60 lb N/ac of residual soil nitrate-N is available annually in the upper 4-feet of soil.” They also share the potential for denitrification in June if we continue to see water-logged soils. So, I realize this isn’t good news on top of the stress you’re already under. The opportunity I see in all of this is the potential to move more nitrogen in-season. They’re recommending to move at least 50% of nitrogen application in-season. I realize this is a mind-shift and challenging equipment and perhaps cost-wise for some. I also think, perhaps hope, that it allows a future culture shift to more in-season nitrogen applications for future years.
A study from Purdue University found that between flowering and maturity, today’s hybrids can take up from 30% to 40% of their total N, over 50% of their total P and over 40% of their total sulfur. On the nitrogen side alone, hybrids today remove 27% more nitrogen from the soil after flowering than hybrids developed from 1950-1990. Thus, anything we can do to spread out nitrogen applications and aim for more in-season applications, can aid in nutrient uptake, yields, and reduce nutrient loss. Next week I’ll share more of our on-farm research and other research results regarding moving nitrogen in-season.
Also wanted to share that we have several updated articles on our http://flood.unl.edu regarding spreading flooded adulterated grain on ag land, considerations for gardens in areas that were flooded, reclaiming pastures and fields with silt/sand deposits, lease considerations on flooded ground, and fencing considerations. Prior to the flooding/blizzard, livestock producers were struggling with the weather and losing livestock. A team of us put together information for FSA regarding the severe winter as a disaster consideration. While that information was submitted several weeks ago, you can find our article at: https://go.unl.edu/6agf.
#NebraskaStrong also means being strong enough to ask for help. Nebraska Family Helpline: 888-866-8660. Nebraska Farm Hotline: 800-464-0258.
Through the years I’ve been blessed to meet many individuals including farmers/ag industry professionals who served (or continue to serve) our Country in the military. I’ve observed how service has influenced perspective on life’s difficulties for many individuals. And, I’ve observed how impacts of service have resulted in additional difficulties in life after service for some. There shouldn’t be shame regarding the struggle or in seeking help. While it can be scary, healing can come in the midst of honesty and vulnerability. Tonight I watched a special TV interview with four highly decorated individuals of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars-a couple of whom I’ve read their books. It was interesting hearing their perspectives on combat then coming home, on being in the military and then getting out, and much more. They ultimately shared how difficult it is after war and after service to step into civilian life and how important their military connections were in keeping them going. They also shared how important it was to find a sense of purpose in serving others and living life well in honor of those with whom they served who never made it home. Most likely all of us can think of a family member or friend who has served. Those individuals may have stories and/or wounds without words. Let’s be sure to show our gratitude to them for our freedom in America. Thank you to all our Veterans and all those in our Armed Forces for your service! Thank you also to their families!
Fall Applied Anhydrous Ammonia: When I began my Extension career, it was a different perspective for me to experience fall applications of nitrogen. My perspective from our farm was in-season nitrogen applications. Since then, there’s been several research based studies regarding the benefits of in-season nitrogen application. I appreciate there’s different reasons for the ways farmers approach the decisions within your farming operation. I’ve also observed more farmers of various operation sizes moving to more in-season applications. The reasons they’ve shared with me include: wanting to be more efficient with nitrogen application when the plant needs it, worried about any loss in off-season and wanting better water quality for kids/grandkids, research shows hybrids need nitrogen later in season, wanting to find a way to make it work before any potential regulation, and wondering if they can get by with less nitrogen with better timing in season. We also know today’s farmers in general have become increasingly efficient in both nitrogen and water use. There’s an interesting article in this week’s UNL CropWatch (http://cropwatch.unl.edu) where a multi-disciplinary team of authors share on nitrogen application in the fall having enhanced risk due to potential loss. This is due to data on the increase in extreme precipitation events over time that can lead to increased nitrogen loss through leaching and/or denitrification. We also know that there are years, like last winter, where areas I served didn’t even receive 2” of precip from fall through early May. So every year is different. Because we can’t predict the weather, the authors suggest, “Consider a more robust and less risky N management method that includes: applying a small percentage of N near planting time; follow with sidedress N applied as late as is possible given your equipment capabilities or several fertigation applications that are timed with crop uptake needs; and ensure the final application of N is done before the R3 growth stage.” They also suggest the following if you plan to apply N in the fall, “Avoid fall N application for soils of hydrologic Group A (sand, loamy sand, sandy loam) and Group B (loam, silt loam, silt); Avoid fall application of fertilizers containing urea or nitrate; Apply only when soil temperature is consistently below 50°F to slow nitrification (Last week temperatures fluctuated above and below 50°F at the 4-inch depth.); Use an inhibitor with known efficacy when applying N; and Hope for dry cold weather!”. The following is a really good resource if you’re interested in different University studies regarding various nitrogen inhibitors: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/crops/nitrogen-extenders-and-additives-for-field-crops. It’s too long to share here. A general summary of studies involving the inhibitor N-Serve used with anhydrous ammonia applications shows that it consistently resulted in increased ammonium nitrate the following spring (thus it worked well as a nitrification inhibitor). Yield increases were inconsistent throughout studies and years due to precipitation differences amongst the years. That resource also discusses research regarding other nitrification inhibitors in addition to urease inhibitors and slow-release N products, so it may be a helpful resource. We’ve also had farmers conduct on-farm research studies in the past looking at the application of inhibitors in anhydrous vs. none. They also haven’t consistently shown a yield increase (and we failed to always take soil samples to document any differences in ammonium nitrate the following spring). But if you’re interested in trying a study this coming year looking at nitrogen timing or use of inhibitor, please contact me or your local Extension Educator and we’d be happy to work with you!