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Animal Health Notebook

More interpretations on pasture, soil and health

Alan Newport Young stand of warm-season forages
If you want to build soil, the author says, you need to set back your cool-season plants and favor growth of good stands of warm-season forages.

Recently my friend Walt Davis wrote what I believe is a really accurate article in The Grazier’s Gazette (see The imminent implosion of grass-fed beef). In it, he accurately refutes some of what I call the "new stupidity."

He uses the natural model and good science to disprove hypotheses and assumptions that are far from true as to CO2 and global warming.

Speaking of such things, Albert Gore’s farm is only 35 miles or less from my headquarters and he has several close ties in our community. I would be surprised if he presently does not realize that the grazing of cattle in high densities on completely recovered pastures and savannahs is a permanent fix to the carbon excesses he claims are the cause of global warming. The cattle certainly are not the cause!

Although set-stocked cattle are a different story, even they are not the problem.

Interpretation is everything in such endeavors.

As perhaps the ultimate example, the Holy Scripture is without error but the interpretation has and continues to cause major conflict. The Bible includes bunches of literal truths, allegorical messages and truths, parables of truth, and at least three definitions of the word “day.” Many of the differences in interpretation result in battles that need not be fought. In an open letter to Pope Leo X, Martin Luther the church reformer said, “I acknowledge no fixed rules for interpretation of the word of God.”

Interpretation becomes important when we look at and study and learn animal health. If we fail to connect soil health, plant health, animal health and human health we are missing the boat of true knowledge.

Recently I have again been studying some research findings regarding Kentucky 31 fescue, as well as several other fescue varieties and some other cool-season grass species. Several facts stand out that affect our animal’s health and productivity as well as our health and profitability.

Here are some points I have picked up:

  • KY 31 produces more biomass than other varieties and species of perennial C3 (cool-season) grasses and fescues if conditions are equal concerning moisture, pH, phosphorus, sunlight and temperature. This is especially true and significant regarding fall growth.
  • KY 31 stores more carbon and nitrogen in the soil because it depresses soil macrobes and microbes. This does not build new soil.
  • KY 31 resists decomposition, and decomposition is a requirement of a highly productive, vibrant biological system.
  • KY 31 decreases life above and below the surface of the ground. Nitrates from salt fertilizers multiply the problem.
  • The less available sand (silicon) is present, which means a higher clay content, the greater the sterilization affect the KY31 has on soil life and the diversity of life both above the surface.
  • The presence of air in the soil seems to be very important. This is one more reason why the increase of soil organic matter and depth of organic matter is very important to production and health
  • Heavy stress applied to KY31 followed by complete plant recovery yields increased production of other plants, more plant diversity, soil microbes, and animal health and production.
  • High functional activity requires soil that is breathing goodly amounts of air. Low organic clay ground does not breathe much.
  • Tillage on clay soil yields an increase in production only as long as the soil life is ample and there is plenty of moisture, but air increases production.
  • KY31 tends to take out energy (CHO) to a large degree, especially in high clay soil. The same is true for arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, proteins, glomalin, and fatty acids: Fescue takes them out.

To summarize the whole deal on a practical basis, think about my following interpretation. As we deal with heavier clay soils we need to manage toward having more tall, warm-season (C4) grasses, forbs and legumes. As we manage for more organic matter in depth the result will be an increase in animal health and production. This is most pronounced in clay soils.

Young Corn with Wet Feet: What Can We Expect?

5.30 flooded%20corn

Source: Ohio State University Extension

By Alexander Lindsey, Peter Thomison, Steve Culman and Taylor Dill

Around the state, there are many corn fields with young plants with standing water due to the intense storms that have passed through. But what are the long-term effects of standing water on emerged corn? Preliminary data from two locations in Ohio in 2017 suggests that as long as a sidedress N application can be made following the waterlogging, yield loss may be minimal if the waterlogged conditions lasted 4 days or less.

Waterlogging can affect yield in two main ways: 1) damage to the plant physiologically, and 2) N loss through denitrification or leaching. The presence of standing water in the field can affect corn yield by inhibiting growth and restricting ear development (which occurs during vegetative stages). Standing water also reduces the amount of oxygen in the soil, which can cause nitrate in the soil to be converted to forms that are unavailable for plant uptake and may be lost to the environment.

Trials in Ohio conducted in 2017 suggest that corn can survive waterlogged conditions for 4 days or less in the early vegetative stages (V4-5) with minimal impact on yield if a sidedress application can be made after the soil has dried. However, if a sidedress application cannot be made on corn waterlogged for 4 days or more, a yield penalty of 13 to 45% was observed. When waterlogging extended to 6 days even with a sidedress N application, a reduction in yield of 9-33% was observed compared to corn flooded for 4 days or less. These results are consistent with past research (10-50% yield loss if flooded longer than 2 days), but will be repeated in 2018 for validation.

There are a few ways to evaluate for damage caused by flooding. For corn that’s emerged, check the color of the growing point to assess plant survival after ponding. It should be white to cream colored, while a darkening and/or softening usually precedes plant death. Disease problems that can develop include corn smut, and crazy top, but predicting damage from these is difficult until later in the growing season. However, the economic impact of these latter two diseases is usually negligible. Bacteria deposited in leaf whorls by flooding can also result in disease and kill plants. If plants are covered with mud due to the excess water, photosynthesis may be limited but it’s unlikely that the photosynthetic capacity of leaves has been completely destroyed. A light rain is usually sufficient to rinse the mud off of existing leaves, and new growth should be minimally affected.

Sources:

Kaur, G., B.A. Zurweller, K.A. Nelson, P.P. Motavalli, and C.J. Dudenhoeffer. 2017. Soil waterlogging and nitrogen fertilizer management effects on corn and soybean yields. Agron. J. 109:1-10.

Originally posted by Ohio State University Extension. 

 

 

 

 

Ethanol supporters challenge EPA's RFS waivers

photosbyjim/Thinkstock Ethanol plant behind corn field

A coalition of ethanol supporters today (May 30) filed suit challenging EPA RFS waivers. 

The Renewable Fuels Association, National Corn Growers Association, American Coalition for Ethanol and National Farmers Union, with support of Farmers Union Enterprises, filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to challenge several waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted in secret to profitable refining companies. 

The petitioners are challenging three EPA decisions, made under unusually clandestine proceedings, to exempt refineries in Wynnewood, Oklahoma; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Woods Cross, Utah, from the RFS requirements of the Clean Air Act. The Wynnewood refinery is owned by Wynnewood Refining Company, a subsidiary of CVR Energy, and the Cheyenne and Woods Cross refineries are owned by Holly Frontier Corporation. The companies have since estimated in financial disclosures that the exemptions have saved them a collective $170 million in compliance costs. 

When Congress enacted the RFS program a decade ago, it sought to protect certain small refineries from the law’s impacts temporarily by providing an exemption for refineries with no more than 75,000 barrels per day of crude oil throughput. After a two-year blanket exemption expired, Congress also allowed those same refineries to ask for extensions of the temporary exemption if they could show that compliance with the RFS program was causing that particular facility a “disproportionate economic hardship.” Until late last year, EPA only granted a handful of exemptions per year. EPA denied many extension requests, presumably because the refineries failed to meet one or more of these requirements for an extension. In recent months, EPA has granted over two dozen exemptions—including the ones challenged here—without providing any basis for its reversal.

“EPA is trying to undermine the RFS program under the cover of night,” said Bob Dinneen, CEO and President of RFA. “And there’s a reason it has been done in secret – it’s because EPA is acting in contravention of the statute and its own regulations, methodically destroying the demand for renewable fuels. With the little information we’ve been able to piece together through secondary sources, it’s clear that EPA has been extending these exemptions to refineries that didn’t qualify for them.” 

Although EPA typically publishes its proposed actions and final decisions in the Federal Register, EPA has not followed those protocols for small refineries; nor has EPA even informed the public by any means that it had received or acted on such carve-out requests. Instead, the petitioners learned of the unprecedented number of exemptions second-hand, through media reports and secondary sources. 

“EPA left us with no choice but to challenge their systematic cuts to ethanol blending in the U.S. by distorting the intent of the law to grant secret hardship waivers to refineries which in some cases exceed the definition of ‘small’ and fall short of demonstrating ‘disproportionate economic hardship,’” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “We cannot sit by and allow EPA to violate the RFS which requires increasing the use of renewable fuels in the U.S.”

The petition also notes that EPA has consistently rejected all attempts to bring greater transparency to the small refinery exemption extension process. EPA has refused to provide even the most basic information requested in Freedom of Information Act requests from RFA and other parties. More surprisingly, the agency has also ignored demands from members of Congress for the same essential facts.

“EPA’s improper handling of the RFS has significantly cut demand for biofuels grown and produced by American family farmers and their communities. The success of the law lies in the requirement that certain amounts of renewable fuel be blended into our transportation sector. Yet EPA has unlawfully allowed massive refineries to skirt compliance with these requirements, effectively reducing the amount of renewable fuels blended into the transportation sector by more than one billion gallons. These actions must be reversed immediately,” according to Roger Johnson, NFU president.

The petitioners are not challenging EPA’s underlying authority to exempt certain small refineries; rather they are challenging three granted exemptions as abuses of EPA’s authority. EPA should be forced to explain why an otherwise profitable refinery faces disproportionate hardship from compliance with the RFS.

“With their rapidly rising profits, it’s difficult to see what economic hardship these refineries are facing. The apparent lack of hardship raises serious questions of why EPA granted these exemptions, which is compounded by the fact that there is zero transparency in EPA’s small refinery exemption process,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association. “When refineries are reporting profit increases and repurchasing stock shares, we expect EPA to explain why these refineries were granted exemptions from their RFS volume obligations.”

In practice, EPA is attempting to use the small refinery exemptions to waive a significant part of the annual volumes of renewable fuel that are otherwise required to be blended into transportation fuel. Based on EPA data, RFA estimates that small refinery exemptions granted for the past two years have effectively reduced volumes of renewable fuel by as much as 1.6 billion gallons. In enacting the RFS program, however, Congress did not envision the small refinery exemption process would be abused in such a way. 

Source: NCGA

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, May 30, 2018

At least one organization is suggesting we get cancer screenings at a younger age.

Mike Parson's is the new governor of Missouri, and is a farmer.

World Pork Expo is next week, and there will be lots of government representation present.

Thieves can copy your key fob from outside your home.

 

Corn GDD Tool for Late Planting Decisions

corn-young-in the field

Source: South Dakota State University

By Laura Edwards

Many southern area farmers are facing excess moisture again this spring, and some are considering changing varieties to accommodate for a later planting date. The Corn Growing Degree Day (GDD) Tool can help decide if a shorter day variety may be needed.

The Corn GDD Tool uses historical climate data to show you the most likely spring and fall frost dates for your county. In addition to frost dates, the tool will show a graph that includes likely dates for silking and black layer (physiological maturity), given different planting dates and different varieties, for the current growing season. The temperature data at the heart of the online tool is updated every day, so you can see how the current year's accumulated GDD compare to past years. Using climatology and long-term averages, an estimate of when the crop will reach these critical growth stages is presented by the website.

You have many options to select from, including your planting date, maturity, years you would like to use for comparison, and graph display options. The website runs quickly which allows you to compare many scenarios. This way, you can try out some options at any time during the growing season such as calculating an ideal maturity for replanting, or trying to determine the likelihood that your existing crop will reach maturity before fall frost.

For example, the graphic here shows the data for Turner County, SD as of May 20, 2018. The vertical blue lines indicate historical spring and fall frost dates. The taller blue lines show the median date for spring and fall frost. The light blue shaded areas show the historical range of GDD during the growing season. The dark green line is the current season's accumulated GDD since April 1, and the dotted line uses the historical average accumulations to estimate when the crop will reach silk (red vertical line) and black layer (black vertical line) given a 108-day maturity.

In this graph, a 108-day maturity variety planted on May 20 would likely reach physiological maturity in late October, after the average fall frost. If this is a concern, it is simple to use the options to select a shorter day maturity and change the planting date (start date of GDD accumulation) to find a variety that will mature earlier. The user can re-calculate the GDD, and see if the black layer can be reached at a more ideal date. Another option in the tool is to select individual comparison years. Here, 2016 is chosen with a yellow/orange colored line, so it is easy to see how last year’s GDD accumulation, starting on May 20, compared to what historical average temperature would predict (purple line).

The Corn GDD Decision Support Tool is found at the Midwest Regional Climate Center website.

Originally posted by South Dakota State University.

Soybean Planting Population: A Review

This is my favorite photo from the group A nice line of emerging soybean plants in this Nicollet County Minn field

Source: South Dakota State University

By Jonathan Kleinjan, Adam Varenhorst, and Brady Hauswedell

There have been reports in recent years that agronomists in states such as Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin have observed success when reducing soybean planting populations. In some cases, seeding rates have been reduced from the normal recommended rate of 140,000 seeds/acre down to rates as low as 105,000. Reducing plant population can have benefits such as reducing the incidence of white mold (which has been an increasing concern in eastern South Dakota) and lowering seed cost. If a unit of soybean seed is $60, every 1,000 seeds/acre reduction in seeding rate will save about $.43. For example, if seeding rates are reduced by 20,000 seeds/acre, the savings would be 20,000 seeds/acre x $.43/1000 seeds = $8.60 per acre.

In 2016 and 2017, SDSU researchers examined seven planting populations ranging from 60,000 to 180,000 seeds/acre on two planting dates (early May and early June) at four locations in eastern South Dakota. All plots were planted using conventional tillage in 30-inch rows. Yield levels tended to be higher for the early May planting versus the early June planting, although this relationship depended on the timing of precipitation events. Many university researchers recommend to increase planting rates at later seeding dates to compensate for less vegetative growth and a reduced grain fill period. However, in this study, the most economically viable planting population for soybeans was found to be 140,000 seeds/acre for both the early and late planting dates. Yield results for each of the seven planting populations averaged over two planting dates are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Yield levels for seven soybean planting populations in eastern South Dakota.

It is important to note that yield levels are fairly flat across seeding rates. In the 2016 early May planted trial, the 60,000 seeds/acre planting population was actually the highest yielding when averaged across locations. How is this possible? Soybeans have a remarkable ability to compensate for low planting populations by increasing branches, nodes, and ultimately, pods. The difference in plant structure across four seeding rates is shown in Figure 2. Purdue research suggests that a final stand of 80,000 plants per acre (in 30 inch rows) is adequate for achieving 100% of yield potential.

Figure 2. Soybean plants from 60k through 180k seeding rates. Plant height and number of pods varied by seeding rates. Courtesy: Jonathan Kleinjan

South Dakota research points to an ideal soybean planting population of 140,000 seeds/acre. Individual producers may want to increase the seeding rate slightly for narrow row spacing, in heavy residue conditions, or as planting dates get later.


For Further Information:
•Conley, S.P., J.M. Gaska, S. Mourtiznis, D. Mueller, and A. Varenhorst. 2018. Adjust Your Seeding Rate but not Your Maturity Group for Late May Planted Soybean. Cool Bean. University of Wisconsin Extension. Madison, WI.
•Pedersen, P. 2005. Production Costs: Seeding Rates May Be a Place to Save. Iowa State University Extension. Ames, IA.
•Recommended Soybean Planting Populations. 2010. CropWatch. Nebraska Extension. Lincoln, NE.

Originally posted by South Dakota State University.

 

 

New Extension cotton specialist steps into growing role

boll counting
Seth Byrd, new Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Cotton Agronomist

New Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Cotton Agronomist Seth Byrd likens growing the crop to a 24-hour road race. 

“You’re doing more of trying to predict how the environment is going to affect the crop and manage it to those environmental factors that could potentially cost yield, capitalize on them to increase yield or maintain your yield,” he said. “With cotton, maybe there’s a little more attempting to mitigate risk, and we may not try to hit a homerun, but like any crop, the goal is to be profitable.” 

 

Dr. Seth Byrd, Oklahoma State Cooperative Extension Cotton Specialist

Byrd, who officially stepped into his role April 30, is ready to do his part to help Oklahoma cotton producers thrive.  

“If a producer or anyone wants to know more about cotton, I’m always open to talk. ,” he said. “I don’t try to tell anybody how to farm. Cotton growers are incredibly smart people. We just try to help them out on ‘what ifs’ and navigate some of the new options they have in cotton production now.” 

In the short term, Byrd will work on establishing a program that evaluates different agronomic practices that ultimately will help producers lead more efficient operations. 

Longer term, he envisions Oklahoma muscling its way to the front of the national cotton scene. Accomplishing that goal will entail promoting good production practices that generate both pounds per acre and a high quality product marketable on a global scale. 

“You can get all the pounds per acre you want, but if our quality isn’t good and it’s not something we can market to spinning mills, then the profitability isn’t going to be there,” Byrd said. “We’ve certainly got the ability to do it, producers who are as good as anybody else in the country growing it and I think we’ve got the resources from Oklahoma State to put us there.” 

Though Byrd has experience in growing everything from corn to soybeans to wheat to alfalfa to potatoes, cotton has been his most recent focus. He arrived at Oklahoma State from Texas A&M, where he was an assistant professor and Extension cotton specialist.  

“To me, cotton is just a fun crop,” he said. “It’s a tropical tree. It thinks it’s going to survive and be here next year and the year after that. I don’t think it takes more management. It just takes a different kind of management to sort of reign it in and get it to do what we want it to do. Luckily, we have great university and industry breeders that have helped make that easier and more profitable.” 

A self-proclaimed East Coast guy, Byrd is originally from North Carolina, but has lived all over – Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Wyoming, Montana, Florida, Georgia. He was drawn to Oklahoma, in part, because of the emergence of cotton as a popular option for a rapidly growing number of producers across the state. 

In November 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Crop Production Report ranked Oklahoma fourth in the nation in cotton production with an estimated 1.1 million bales. 

Last year, there were 555,000 acres of cotton harvested in the state. That number is up from 290,000 in 2016 and 205,000 in 2015. 

Oklahoma, along with Texas and Kansas, represent the only part of the country where cotton acreage is both growing and stabilizing, said Byrd, who views his new role as a chance to get in on the ground floor of a state that is very quickly emerging as a force in cotton production. 

Finally, with 25 percent of his appointment dedicated to research, Byrd sees another unique opportunity to help cotton growers in Oklahoma. 

Generally, the longer the growing season cotton enjoys, the better. However, Byrd said the newest acres being devoted to the crop are in some of the shortest season environments in the nation. 

“That’s the new acre. It’s a short-season acre,” he said. “We have to have research that addresses producers’ needs and how we do things in a short-season environment. Our challenge is to develop a good guide or recommended practices for short-season cotton production.”

Enrollment open for Texas International Cotton School

APC-BALES

Registration remains open for the 38th session of the Texas International Cotton School, scheduled for August 6-16, 2018, in Lubbock.

The Texas International Cotton School (TICS) is uniquely structured to provide an integrated understanding of the Texas cotton industry and how it interacts with the global cotton/textile complex. Since its inception, the school has been a collaboration between the Texas cotton merchants who make up the Lubbock Cotton Exchange and the faculty and staff of the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute of Texas Tech University.

“Our planning committee works diligently to ensure that our curriculum not only includes the fundamentals of the cotton industry, but also examines the latest issues and advancements,” Lubbock Cotton Exchange President John Aldinger said.

During the two weeks of the school, more than 30 experts from across the United States teach the students, who learn about the cotton marketing chain – including seed breeding, farm production, harvesting, ginning, warehousing, merchandising, and textile manufacturing. All aspects of U.S. and global trade of cotton are covered, so the students obtain an understanding of what is required to successfully participate in the U.S. cotton market and to deliver the cottons needed in diverse export markets. They learn about the important quality attributes of cotton fibers and how these translate into processing efficiency and textile product quality. Throughout the program, students have repeated opportunities to interact with the cotton merchants of the Lubbock Cotton Exchange and the fiber and textile experts of Texas Tech University.

For more information, including tuition and curriculum, visit http://www.texasintlcottonschool.com.

Source: Texas International Cotton School

While others are soaked, I can’t buy a rain…

JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES Raindrops photo

Matthew 5:45 to the contrary, "For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," in my neighborhood the rain falleth neither on the just nor the unjust.

Once summer came, overnight late April, until now, as May winds down, we've had basically no rain. Yet, a swath of Mississippi counties north of us have had rain after rain after rain. Along that corridor, there has, in many places, been so much rain that farmers had trouble getting fields prepared and crops planted.

A friend, who lives in one of those counties, e-mails me almost daily that he’s had another inch, another half-inch, another tenth of an inch. The town just 20 miles to the east of mine gets every rain that comes through. The town 30 miles to the west, ditto. I don't know how many times I've driven in downpours from either of those towns, but when I get within shouting distance of my town, the sun will be shining, and not a drop.

At our offices in the north Delta a week ago, it rained so hard the lawn was flooded and water was overflowing the ditches along the highway. Rains spread all across the usual north Mississippi path. But nary a drop in my town, as my yard, with some of the sorriest soil in the universe, became concrete.

A couple of days ago, a passing cloud dropped a couple of teaspoons of rain — didn't even wet the street —- and all the while the sun was shining brightly. What few drops there were evaporated about as soon as they hit the ground.

One day we got a good two inches of thunder, but somebody else got the rain.

My late across-the-street neighbor told me, sometime after we'd moved here 10 years ago and I was lamenting the absence of rain, "Well, it's the dome effect — there's a climatic dome over this town that keeps rain away." I figured he was joshing me, but with dry summer after dry summer (a couple of years ago, we went six months with no rain and were classified by the USDA in “extreme drought”), I more and more think perhaps he was right.

As tropical storm Alberto was forming and strengthening in the gulf, the weather gurus were issuing forecasts for our town of 80 percent rain/thunderstorms one day, 90 percent rain the next day, 100 percent rain the following day. One day we got a good two inches of thunder, but somebody else got the rain.

Yesterday (May 29), as Alberto had made landfall and was working its way northward, the forecast was for 100 percent rain, and radar projections showed heavy bands of rain and thunderstorms for our area. Our police department even issued a warning on neighborhood websites to be prepared for possible severe thunderstorms during the afternoon — which turned out to be sunny and hot, with not the first rumble of thunder or drop of rain.

Much of the north Mississippi corridor got rain yesterday. Friends in that area tell me there was water standing in the fields, which were already wet from almost daily rains the past month. One reported 1.4 inches in his rain gauge.

Now, I look out the window at sunshine, blue skies, high white cirrus clouds, and we’re back to the standard summer forecast of 10 percent chance of scattered showers. So, no relief in sight from my daily watering chores.

Today’s supercomputers and sophisticated weather models aside, much of forecasting is still akin to Middle Ages seers poking around in bird entrails or sticking a finger in the wind.

(P.S. It was always a maxim in the all-print days of the pre-internet era that you didn't write about weather because by the time the paper came out the weather you wrote about would likely have changed. I posted this piece this morning, and mid-afternoon a weather alert popped up on my phone and computer warning of an impending thunderstorm. Yeah, sure, I thought as I looked out my window to the east and saw clouds and sun, weather guys have missed the boat again. A couple of minutes later there was a window-rattling clap of thunder and in another minute, rain had moved in from the southwest. It lasted maybe 5 minutes, with gusty winds. So, after a couple dozen misses over the past month, the weather prognosticators finally managed to get one right. For which, thanks!)

Radish cover crop traps nitrogen; mystery follows

5.30 radish cc site 2-8_RadishDig_Cropped
Credit: Matt RuarkCaption: Radish growth in Washington County, WI (radish carefully dug up with a shovel)

Source: Agronomy Journal

When you think of a radish, you may think of the small, round, crunchy, red-and-white vegetable that is sliced into salads. You might be surprised to learn that a larger, longer form of this root vegetable is being used in agriculture as a cover crop.

 Cover crops are grown between main crops such as wheat, corn, or soybeans when the soil would otherwise be bare. Cover crops can control erosion, build soil, and suppress weeds. Radish as a cover crop can provide these benefits and more. The long radish root creates deep channels in the soil that can make it easier for subsequent crops to reach water in the soil below.

 Radish is also known to benefit water quality. It does so by taking up nitrogen, in the form of nitrates, from the soil. This leaves less nitrogen in the soil that can run off to nearby streams and lakes.

 Matt Ruark of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues wanted to know more about the effect of this nitrate uptake in the following growing season. They established test sites in three Wisconsin locations and studied them for three years. At each site, some plots received the radish cover crop and some did not. The radish cover crop was planted in August after a wheat harvest. Corn was planted the following spring.

 The research showed that radish significantly reduced the nitrate content in the soil as compared to the test plots with no cover crop. This finding confirmed the results of several earlier studies. It showed that radish did take up nitrogen, in the form of nitrates, from the soil.

 This research supports the use of radish as a cover crop as a trap crop for fall nitrogen. However, what happens to that nitrogen afterward remains unknown.

 There was no consistent evidence that nitrogen was returned to the soil as the radish crop decomposed. Radish did not supply nitrogen to the corn crop. The researchers concluded that in the Upper Midwest the nitrogen in radish could not replace fertilizer.

 Ruark commented, “Radish grows well when planted in late summer and traps a lot of nitrogen. But the way it decomposes doesn’t result in a nitrogen fertilizer benefit to the next crop. We don’t know exactly why. We were hoping it would provide a nitrogen benefit, but alas, it did not.”

 What happens to the nitrogen? The decomposition pattern of radish needs to be explored more fully to learn more. And perhaps, Ruark said, radish could be more beneficial if mixed with a winter-hardy cover crop.

 Read more about Ruark’s work in Agronomy Journal. The Wisconsin Fertilizer Research Council funded this research with additional support from the Leo Walsh Graduate Fellowship.