Preplant manure on alfalfa: Residual effects on corn yield and soil nitrate

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Overapplication of N from various sources can be partially attributed to the lack of proper N crediting when organic N sources, such as alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and manure, are part of a farm's cropping system. The objectives of this study were to evaluate: (i) the effect of manure applied prior to alfalfa establishment on subsequent corn (Zea mays L.) grain yield and soil nitrate-N concentrations; and (ii) grain yield response to alfalfa cutting management preceeding plowdown. Prior to alfalfa establishment, three preplant manure rates (3 000, 6 000, and 12 000 gal/acre) were applied at Rosemount MN, on a Waukegan silt loam (fine-silty over sandy or sandy-skeletal, mixed, mesic Typic Hapludolls) and at Waseca MN, on a Nicollet clay loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Aquic Hapludolls). Fall alfalfa cutting management treatments consisted of either leaving or removing the fourth-cutting herbage before plowdown. First-year corn grain yields following alfalfa plowdown were similar for all manure treatments applied prior to alfalfa establishment. By the second and third year after alfalfa, corn yields declined and yield responses to the original manure treatments were less than those observed with 30 lb/acre of fertilizer N. Not harvesting the fourth-cutting herbage before moldboard plowing significantly increased yields by an average of 4.2 bu/acre. In the first year after alfalfa plowdown, the N contribution of the alfalfa, whose N credit can be estimated by the in-season nitrate-N test, overshadowed the contribution of the manure, which can be partially estimated by the preplant residual N test or by the in-season nitrate-N test, in the first year after plowdown. By the third year of corn following alfalfa, the manure-N and alfalfa-N contributions to the mineralizable N pool are exhausted based on soil nitrate-N concentrations and corn grain yield response. Good stands of alfalfa can supply optimal N for corn in the year after plowing, regardless of whether preplant manure was applied prior to alfalfa seeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-398
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Production Agriculture
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

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