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UNL Grazing Corn Residue Research

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.

Table1-Beef

Effect of Corn Residue Removal on Subsequent Crop Yields“, 2015 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report. Mary E. Drewnoski, L. Aaron Stalker, Jim C. MacDonald, Galen E. Erickson, Kathy J. Hanford, Terry J. Klopfenstein

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.

Table2-Beef

Effect of Corn Residue Removal on Subsequent Crop Yields“, 2015 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report. Mary E. Drewnoski, L. Aaron Stalker, Jim C. MacDonald, Galen E. Erickson, Kathy J. Hanford, Terry J. Klopfenstein

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.

Table3-Beef

Effect of Corn Residue Removal on Subsequent Crop Yields“, 2015 Nebraska Beef Cattle Report. Mary E. Drewnoski, L. Aaron Stalker, Jim C. MacDonald, Galen E. Erickson, Kathy J. Hanford, Terry J. Klopfenstein

Sugar Application in Crops

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.

Weed Science Field Day

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!

SCAL Weed Field Day1SCAL Weed Field Day2

Sensitive Issues Training-Engage

Many of us have been there…we’ve been asked a question in which the answer can be deemed controversial because the topic is based on emotion and beliefs.  How do we respond?  Do we get caught up in the emotion and passion of the issue and try to force our beliefs on others?  Do we shy away or try to avoid an answer altogether by remaining silent?

Last week’s Sensitive Issues Media and Communications Training was developed to help all of us through these situations.  It was a remarkable experience working with an amazing group of ladies, all passionate about food, but looking at food from a variety of perspectives and taking an issues-based approach in developing our team.  Our team was comprised of a livestock expert, a manure expert, two food and nutrition experts, a communication’s expert, and myself from a crop production perspective.  Special thanks to Dr. Chuck Hibberd, Nebraska Extension Dean and Director, for providing us a New Audiences Innovation Grant to partially fund this training. You can catch the conversation on Twitter at #SIMCT15.

We invited the Center for Food Integrity to conduct their Engage training with us, which was sponsored by the United Soybean Board.  ThisIMAG4885-1 training uses “the power of shared values to highlight industry trends and teaches strategies for using values-based messaging in daily conversations, and public speaking and media opportunities.”  There was discussion, role playing, and mock media interviews.  The training challenged me to use something I also just learned from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” training….Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood.

Essentially, ask questions.  Understand why a consumer believes X, Y, or Z about food and agriculture.  Universal values include:

  • Compassion
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Fairness
  • Truth

Seek to understand the other person’s values by listening and asking questions.  Then share by communicating about common values telling your food and ag story.  We can’t really script this.  We can’t be so vague that we’re not credible.  For example, the following is vague and perhaps over-used:

By doing X we help the environment.

Instead, we need to be willing to talk about the hard issues with authentic transparency…to share our own individual stories.

I also desire water that is safe for my family to drink and desire for there to be enough water for future generations.  That’s why my colleagues and I work with farmers to use research-based irrigation scheduling tools.  Doing so helps reduce over-irrigation which can reduce the nitrate levels reaching our groundwater and the amount of water being pumped from the aquifer.

There were a few surprises for me.  The first being the progress in one year (based onIMAG4865-1 the Center for Food Integrity’s research) that we’ve made in consumer trust.  This slide is essentially saying that 42% of consumers feel the food system is going the right direction (up from 34% last year).  Men are more trusting of the food system at 48% believing the food system is on the right track.  32% of women feel the food system is on the wrong track.

Another surprising, yet encouraging piece of information for IMAG4868-1me to see is which people are trusted the most on sensitive topics.  On the topic of genetically modified foods, University Scientists topped the list, a Scientist that was a Mom was second, and Farmers were third.  This is different than other research I’d seen, so I was excited about this.  It was a survey of 2005 individuals conducted in 2014 and was encouraging from the standpoint that we do still have an opportunity to share our stories with those who truly desire to know more about where their food comes from.  We will never change the activists, but we can reach the middle.

Finally, I loved the following quote which is so true:

A picture is worth 1000 words; a video is a library.

They showed the following video from Similac entitled, “The Mother ‘Hood“.  Instantly, my mind went to how easy it would be for ag to do something similar.  We tend to be so divided, but division is killing us.  We are in the business of providing a safe, affordable, food supply to the world…but beyond that, our diversity provides consumer choice.  If you watch the video, consider what is the common issue that could bring all of ag together.  I have some ideas and my team members and I have discussed what a similar video with diverse agriculture groups would look like.  What are your thoughts and ideas?

Connecting with Extension to Enhance the Land Grant Mission

My thoughts on the importance of connecting with Teaching and Research to ensure Extension’s and the Land Grant Institution’s future success, relevancy, and existence.

Next Generation Extension

I had the opportunity to provide a seminar to the UNL Agronomy and Horticulture Agronomy seminar picDepartment last week which was truly an honor.  As I thought about what to present, I kept thinking about the future of Extension and two major challenges I see Extension facing in the next 100 years…actually now.

Challenge of losing our research base.

Challenge of sharing our unbiased, research-based information in the places where customers are receiving information.

I continue to think about Extension’s Mission:  We provide unbiased, research-based information to the people to ultimately improve their lives.  

My thoughts kept centering around the fact that in order for me to achieve Extension’s Mission, I need to be more connected with the people on campus and research stations.  I need to know about their research to share with our customers.  For us to be the best Land Grant University System we can be in…

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