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Applying Nitrogen to Enhance Corn Residue Decomposition: Does it Work?

  Applying nitrogen in the fall to enhance corn residue decomposition occurs with some frequency in the Midwestern United States. The purpose of this application (normally applied as AMS or UAN) is to deliver a nitrogen source to feed microbes and increase the speed at which corn residue is decomposed. The main reason this topic seems more prevalent in recent years may be related to current hybrids and farming practices. Modern genetics have selected for stronger stalks and larger plants, while increases in corn-on-corn rotations and reduced tillage have resulted in more residual biomass. Combined, these result in greater demand on microbes to minimize the impact of residue on the following season's operations. Rationale Behind "Stalk Burndown" The rationale behind applying N to aid in stalk decomposition is related to the carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio, which indicates how effectively microbes decompose different materials. The C:N ratio is important because it denotes how…

Corn roots growing video

A lot of corn has been planted and it is now rooting down. Have you ever wondered what that looks like? The Gilroy lab funded by the NSF & NASA studies how plants sense and respond to stress, and how roots grow. The had this video linked to their website.    As the root pushes down it develops root hairs to increase its surface area so it increases its nutrient and water absorbing capacity.     The Blogronomist is maintained by Craig Dick, head blogronomist and VP of Sales and Marketing. Here you will find a wide array of blog articles from Craig and expert guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

Better Roots for Better Soil

Could better corn roots be the key to better quality soil and water? According to the article “How Corn Roots Got Better by Accident, traditional plant breeding has also made roots better at taking up nitrogen, though more research is need to understand the mechanisms. Here are some key points from the article: Image: Courtesy of Larry York Using a Penn State-developed computer program called SimRoot, researchers modeled the average root architecture of modern corn hybrids (shown) to help compare it to that of older varieties. “About half of the yield gains in commercial corn hybrids in the last 100 years have come from improved plant genetics, explains Larry York, recent PhD graduate in ecology, now a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Nottingham. The other half came largely from agronomic practices, such as fertilizer use and higher planting densities.” “A lot of research has focused on the shoots…

Glyphosate & Crop Nutrient Interactions

Glyphosate & crop nutrient interactions have been a topic of conversation during many of my recent visits with agronomists & dealers.   Articles that discuss this in more detail: I also found this article by Dr. Don Huber a very good summary of what is going on:

What does all this rain mean to your field?

Obviously, it’s been a cool, cloudy and wet spring. So much so that corn planting, as of last week, stands at only 88%, 11% behind the five-year average of 99%. Only 44% of the soybean crop has been planted, way behind the 99% we experienced last year at this time. The stark weather contrast between this year and last has not only limited farmers’ ability to get into their fields, but also may have consequences in regards to soil fertility. During drought conditions, it is normal for a ‘bank’ of nitrogen to be stored in the soil as there isn’t sufficient moisture to move it in the soil, so it stays put. Soil samples taken by Iowa State last fall indicated that it may be possible to have upwards of 100 lbs N/A carryover to this season, which is roughly double what may normally carry over from year to year.…


Maintained by our team of experts, we have a wide array of blog articles from our experts and guests on topics related to soil and crop health, farming and growing tips, and so much more. If it’s not here, ask us!

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