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Save the Date: Nitrogen Conference on March 6

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By Fabian Fernandez 

Nutrient Management Specialist

Mark your calendar for a new conference. Nitrogen: Minnesota's Grand Challenge and Compelling Opportunity will be on Friday, March 6, 2015 at the Best Western Plus Kelly Inn of St. Cloud, MN.

The conference will be focused on nitrogen management for crop producers and ag professionals. Nitrogen is essential for crop production, but many factors influence the efficient use of this nutrient in agricultural systems. Managing this nutrient effectively in Minnesota is important both for financial and environmental benefits.

The planning committee identified speakers and topics to make this conference relevant and informative on current topics directly related to nitrogen for agricultural production and environmental stewardship. There will be CCA credits available.

This is an event you don't want to miss. Additional details and registration information are forthcoming.

By Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist


Utilization of liquid fertilizer sources placed directly on the seed at planting has become commonplace in many areas of Minnesota. However, low corn prices as well as challenging planting conditions over the past two growing seasons have caused many to question certain aspects of their overall fertility program.  There are a few suggestions that can be used to ensure the best chance for a profitable return on investment

Nitrogen management for 2015

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John Lamb, Fabian Fernandez, and Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Scientists - Nutrient Management


Labor Day has come and gone and now it is time to think about nitrogen (N) plans for next year. This news article will cover some thoughts about fall applications of N.

Soil sampling

If you plan to use a soil nitrate-N test, you need to wait until the soil temperature is below 50°F to get a soil test value that is useful for predicting fertilizer need.

Nitrogen management

The past three years have been challenging for N management for corn. The wet springs have caused larger than normal N losses. In 2014, we saw some of the largest number of acres of N deficient corn in Minnesota in years. The current University of Minnesota N guidelines for corn were based on the use of N best management practices. Fields that had N applied at UMN guidelines may have been short of N, if the fertilizer was applied in the fall. One suggestion for fields with a history of fall N applications with N deficiency problems the last three years is to strongly consider pre-plant spring applications or a split application with some side-dress N before the V8 corn development stage.

by Jochum Wiersma and Albert Sims

Interest in improving grain protein in hard red spring wheat (HRSW) with in-season applications of nitrogen (N) fertilizer may increase this year, since protein premiums and discounts are expected to be greater this year than last. Despite the late planting, the cool and wet weather has created a scenario where the crop may be a bit short on N to maximize grain protein.

There is an intuitive appeal to split apply N (N applied preplant and more N applied during the growing season) in HRSW since the crop takes up the majority of its N between jointing and flag leaf emergence. The practice of splitting the total N fertilizer gift in three or even four separate applications is commonplace in winter cereal production in the maritime regions of Europe, including the countries of Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France. The objective of split N applications is to supply N when the crop needs it, improve N use efficiency, and consequently achieve maximum grain yield and/or grain protein with fewer N fertilizer inputs.

John Lamb, Fabian Fernandez, and Daniel Kaiser
University of Minnesota Nutrient Management Team

Nitrogen is important for corn growth, and has been a recent concern. This year similar to many years has not had normal weather. Planting has been delayed by moist conditions and cold temperature. Now with the record rainfalls last weekend (May 30 through June 1, 2014), there are concerns that nitrogen has been lost to leaching or denitrification.

2014 Extension Drainage Design Workshops

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The annual Extension Drainage Design Workshops will be held in four locations in 2014: January 29 - 30, SDSU Extension Regional Center, Sioux Falls, SD; February 11 - 12, North Dakota State College of Science, Wahpeton, ND; March 5 - 6, University of Minnesota - Crookston, Crookston, MN, and March 18 - 19, Holiday Inn, Owatonna, MN. The workshops are a collaborative effort between the University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University Extension.

The 2-day workshops start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. on day two. The workshops will focus on planning and design of agricultural tile drainage systems to meet both profitability and environmental objectives. The course content is taught in a hands-on manner with lots of discussion time.

Each workshop is intended for those interested in a more complete understanding of the planning and design principles and practices for drainage and water table management systems, including: farmers, landowners, consultants, drainage contractors, government agency staff and water resource managers. Planning topics include legal aspects, basics of drainable soils, agronomic perspectives, doing your own tiling, land evaluation tools, wetlands, and conservation drainage concepts and techniques. The design topics begin with basic design considerations and progress through individual small team projects, with several hands-on problem-solving examples covering basic design and layout principles, water flow calculations, drain spacing, sizing, and grades. Design principles for lift stations and conservation drainage practices are also considered.

Registration for the four workshops sessions is now available at: www.regonline.com/2014drainage The registration price is $225 (price goes up to $300 about 3 weeks before the start of each workshop), and each workshop is limited to about 65 participants. These workshops have typically filled quickly, so register early to guarantee a spot. Due to seating limitations, on-site registration will not be available on the day of the event. Detailed agendas and additional information will follow shortly and be posted to the registration site.

For more information contact Brad Carlson at bcarlson@umn.edu, or visit www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/water/.

By Daniel Kaiser and John Lamb
Extension Soil Fertility Specialists

Many of our earlier planted fields in Minnesota have been exhibiting some significant variation in plant growth and yellowing this spring.  Our conditions in May and early June have been less than favorable for corn growth and for the release of nutrients from organic matter.  Due to the heavy rains nitrogen loss is being increasingly questioned and the decision of whether to side-dress or not will need to be made sooner or later.  There are a few considerations to make when deciding if more nitrogen should be applied.

Les Everett - Water Resources Center Education Coordinator, U of M. Randy Pepin and Jose A. Hernandez - Extension Educators, University of Minnesota - Extension

Using grid soil sampling to guide manure application can be a profitable investment, is the conclusion from case studies based on eight Minnesota farms. In fields where there is a history of non-uniform manure application, targeting new manure applications to areas with lower phosphorus and potassium soil test values can result in considerable economic returns above the cost of grid soil sampling. Variable rate manure applicators are not required when fields can be divided into application and no-application zones, with supplemental nitrogen fertilizer in the no-manure zones. The brief case studies are available on the University of Minnesota Extension web page for Manure Management and Air Quality http://www.manure.umn.edu, under Grid Soil Sampling for Manure Application. An introduction, the eight case studies, and a set of short video presentations based on the case studies are available at http://z.umn.edu/gridsoilsampling.

Funding for the development of these case studies was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
University of Minnesota


Seemingly unpredictable weather conditions each spring inevitably bring up questions on placement of fertilizer with the seed.  Starter fertilizer has played an important role in nutrient management in corn in Minnesota.  However, tools for deciding on how much that can safely be applied have not been widely available.  While these tools can be used common sense is still needed in making a decision on what should be done.

Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

A few questions arose over the winter as to options for spring applied nitrogen for small grains in areas where fall application was not possible.  One option that was questioned was increasing application rates with the air seeder.  While this does present increased risk, with spring approaching I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some resources available for helping make decisions on what to apply.  Application with the air seeder allows for more options due to a wide range of seedbed utilized with the various seed spread patters available. 

Nutrient Management Planner for Minnesota software, version 4.0 for M.S. Windows 7 and Access 2010 is now available on a CD from UM Extension, http://www.extension.umn.edu, at the Extension Store. NMP helps producers and their advisors plan field-specific fertilizer and manure applications that meet crop needs and agency requirements. Recommendations are consistent with current University of Minnesota fertilizer recommendations, the USDA-NRCS-Minnesota 590 (Nutrient Management) Standard, and Minnesota State 7020 Feedlot Rules. The software generates reports that meet NRCS and MPCA requirements, and that serve producers' farm management needs. The software includes a farm nutrient supply and demand calculator to determine the acres needed for manure applications. NMP V 4.0 requires a computer with MS Windows 7 and MS Access 2010. More information is at http://z.umn.edu/nmp.

By Jose A. Hernandez
Extension Educator - Nutrient Management

A new Manure Management and Air Quality Education website has been launched. The new website provides educational materials, and current research from the University of Minnesota, in the area of manure management and air quality in livestock production.

Major categories in the new website are: manure management, feedlot and manure storage, air quality, milk house wastewater, manure pathogens, manure treatment, and manure application.

The revised website includes the release of three major additions:


  • The long-standing UM Extension Bulletin "Manure Management in Minnesota" has been updated, printed, and posted on the web.

  • Results of 12 site-years of trials measuring corn yield response to time of swine manure application have been published as a research report entitled: "Swine manure application timing: Results of experiments in southern Minnesota."

  • Eight case studies of the economic and environmental response to using grid soil sampling to guide zonal manure application have been posted to the revised Manure Management and Air Quality website. These case studies will be presented in workshops this winter.

The website will also provide an events calendar with local and regional manure management educational opportunities.

This website was made possible by funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Section 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Program from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Fall Nitrogen Application

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By John Lamb
Extension Soil Scientist


This year the crops have matured early and harvest is moving ahead of normal.  With a large amount of the soybeans and corn coming out, thoughts are turning to getting fertilizer applied for next year's crop.  For phosphorus and potassium, there are very few problems with an early fall application.  These nutrients are not mobile in most soils.  The only big concern with a broadcast application of P and K is getting the fertilizer incorporated into the soil so it is in a place for the plant roots to utilize them next spring.  Incorporation also reduces the chances of P and K being lost through erosion.

John Lamb and Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Specialists


The corn is tasseling, we are praying for rain, and the week of the 4th of July was hot and miserable.  It must be time to think about evaluating this year's nitrogen management program and making decisions about next year's nitrogen needs.  

John A. Lamb and Daniel E. Kaiser
Soil Fertility Specialists

Nitrogen is important for corn growth. This has been a concern on growers' minds since March. First concern was with the poor tillage conditions last fall. Did the nitrogen applied stay in the soil. We attempted to answer that question in a March 18 E-news. At the time of that E-news, drought was the weather condition on everyone's mind. Now with the record rainfalls, there are concerns if nitrogen has been lost to leaching or denitrification.

Daniel Kaiser and John Lamb

Soil Fertility Extension Specialists

The snow is gone and summer is here? The change in weather this spring has allowed for earlier field work to begin. Questions that come to mind include what kind of tillage should I do and do these condition affect me nitrogen management program for corn.

What's Manure Worth?

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UMN Extension has developed a new web-based calculator to determine the value of manure

William F. Lazarus - Extension Economist, Jose A. Hernandez - Extension Educator, and Les Everett - Water Resources Center Education Coordinator. University of Minnesota - Extension

A new web-based tool developed by Dr. William F. Lazarus, Extension Economist and Professor in the Department of Applied Economics, is now available. The web-based calculator may be used to compare the economic value of manure from alternative manure application rates and methods. The value is based on crop nutrient needs for a specific field and crop rotation, fertilizer prices, manure hauling costs, manure type, and application method. In addition to assisting with management of current livestock and crop operations, the calculator can be useful in budgeting new facilities or evaluation of contract production through estimating the effect of manure and manure management on cash flow. The calculations can also assist crop and livestock producer estimate the value of manure that may be transferred or sold from one entity to another.

Livestock producers face uncertain markets and narrow margins. This situation motivates growers to optimize production methods, utilizing all resources including manure. In addition, an increase in the price of commercial fertilizer experienced since 2009, has heightened interest in the use of livestock manure for supplying crop nutrients and has significantly increased the value of manure as a nutrient source.

In recent years more producers have been considering the contribution of manure value to cash flow in livestock operation budgets, and seeking an appropriate market value in exchange situations between livestock producers and crop producers. More crop producers also appear to be seeking manure as a major nutrient source, either by purchasing from a livestock producer or by adding livestock to their operations, particularly swine finishing.

Determining the economic value of the nutrients in livestock manure can be tricky. Nutrients in commercial fertilizer are acquired by paying for the nutrients and a small application charge. With manure you, in effect, "acquire" nutrients by paying for the cost of application, even if you already have ownership of the manure in a storage structure.

Additionally, commercial fertilizer supplies the amount and ratio of nutrients you need or ordered. With manure, you get the amount and ratio of nutrients that it contains, which complicates the determination of a value. Even when a rate that supplies the correct amount of nitrogen is applied, the amount of phosphorous and potash applied may not match what you would have purchased commercially, and amounts applied above crop need probably have no value. In the past, manure application costs often exceeded the value of the nutrients applied. Now, in many situations, the nutrient value in the manure exceeds the cost of application.

The web-based calculator is available at http://z.umn.edu/manurevalue. For more information about manure economics please visit: http://z.umn.edu/manureworth.

Funding for the development of this tool was provided by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Section 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Program from the Environmental Protection Agency.

By Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

U of M Nutrient Management Website

A new nutrient management website has been launched that houses most of the current fertilizer suggestions and data from the University of Minnesota. This website was made possible by funding from the Minnesota Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council and was put together through a joint effort for several researchers from the University of Minnesota who's research focuses on nutrient management issues for several crops growth throughout the state of Minnesota.  We would like to thank the AFREC program because without them this effort would not have been possible

By Jeff Vetsch and John Lamb. University of Minnesota, Southern Research and Outreach Center and Department of Soil Water and Climate.

Waseca MN, (10/1/2011) - Once soybean harvest is complete many swine farmers begin applying manure to those acres for the next year's corn crop. Manure applications in Southern Minnesota begin in early October and usually conclude by mid November. A significant proportion of the nitrogen (N) in swine finishing manure is in the ammonium-N form. If warm soil temperatures persist after application, the ammonium-N can nitrify and be susceptible to loss via leaching or denitrification. These N losses have negative agronomic and environmental implications. The University of Minnesota recommends fall fertilizer N be applied after soils are less than 50° F at the 6-inch depth. This usually occurs in late October in Southern Minnesota.

By Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

As the growing season moves forward more questions have occurred about what products to use in side-dress situations. While nitrogen is on the minds of many, sulfur deficiencies are starting to be seen in fields as well. Applying the right product in the right situation at the correct time can be crucial in order to maintain yields and minimize damage to growing plants.

By: Daniel Kaiser and Jeffrey Coulter
University of Minnesota Extension Specialists

With all of the flooded soils and wet fields there likely are questions on denitrification and whether side-dress nitrogen (N) should be applied. The fact is that it can be difficult to predict the amount of N lost. However, two things should be considered when dealing with denitrification:

By Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

With the recent flooding or late season hail there may be questions on whether a credit can be taken from soybeans not harvested for the next year's crop. Soybeans are a high protein crop which means they can contain a large amount of nitrogen. Average vaules of nitrogen removed in soybean grain are reported at around 3.8 lbs of N per bushel (Source IPNI) for a total of 190 lbs of N in a 50 bu/ac soybean crop. In comparison corn grain would remove about 0.90 lbs of N per bushel and a total of 180 lbs of N in a 200 bu/ac crop.  Can all of this nitrogen be counted on if the soybeans cannot be harvested and are plowed under if they cannot be harvested?  

By Gyles Randall
Southern Research and Outreach Center, University of Minnesota

Nitrogen management practices for corn have become a popular discussion topic lately among growers, dealers, and crop advisors. Record June-July rainfall (16.25" at Waseca) placed intense pressure on N availability for corn, resulting in considerable acreage of lighter green to yellowish green corn in southern Minnesota. This appearance indicates a shortage of N; likely due to denitrification losses of N from the saturated soils during June and July. Scenarios where N losses and N-deficient corn were most apparent include: 1) corn following corn, 2) fall-applied N, and 3) poorly to very poorly drained soils. Based on previous research, applying an additional 50 to 60 lb N/A, especially in the fall, under these "high N loss" conditions would not have been sufficient to meet the N demand of this year's corn.

Plan Now for Successful Corn after Alfalfa

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By Daniel Kaiser and Jochum Wiersma

Decisions about the amount of nitrogen to apply in wheat and barley are challenging each and every year as the return per acre is not simple a function of the price of the commodity but also on the quality (grain protein %) of those bushels. There are opportunities to capture premiums for protein but more often than not producers are faced with discounts as the grain protein percentages fall below the market's 14% threshold.  While this was already an issue in 2008 with high yields in Northwest Minnesota leading to lower protein, it was greatly magnified in 2009 with producers reporting grain protein percentages of 10% or less.  This issue is not new since it has been long noticed that yield and protein are inversely related. The amount of grain protein produced per acre appears to be relatively constant over years. In high yielding years the extra starch produced  simply dilutes the total protein produced per acre leading to smaller percentages in the grain  Unfortunately farmers are not paid for total production of grain protein per acre but rather they are paid for concentration in grain.
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