Growth study looks at nitrogen loss in corn

Frances Gould, Morgan, Johnny W.  |  11/11/2013 11:03:08 PM

LSU AgCenter researcher Josh Lofton distributes handouts describing nitrogen use in corn at a field day at the AgCenter Northeast Research Station near St. Joseph. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

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Josh Lofton, LSU AgCenter researcher at the Macon Ridge Research Station, studies how nitrogen loss affects plant growth rates and the best time to apply additional nitrogen after corn has been flooded.

The project provided for a simulated flood that will allow a 24- hour period with no oxygen.

One plot had early-season flooding before the plants reached the sixth-true-leaf stage. The second plot was flooded midseason at the late-vegetative stage. The third plot was not saturated at all, but limited ponding would occur from time to time just from natural rain.

"What everybody knows and has theorized is when you put soil under water, you’re going to lose nitrogen," he said. Whether the loss is from leaching or denitrification, the grower needs to know when and if more nitrogen should be applied.

"When you get a flooding event real early in the season, you get such a decrease in your corn growth that it’s going down almost parallel to your nitrogen," Lofton said. "This is bad news for the grower because it means when you lose a little bit of nitrogen, you’ve already lost a little bit of corn growth."

Lofton said there is still a lot to learn about nitrogen loss and its effect on the crop. "This study is the beginning of a process."

This is actually the first step in this process. "There are still a lot of things that we need to know," he said. "We’re hoping after about two years of data we can move from just data collection to starting to put in some management practices."

He’s hoping the study will answer a number of these questions and give him hard numbers on the amount of corn lost as well as the amount of nitrogen lost.

Johnny Morgan

(This article was published in the 2013 Soybean and Grain Research & Promotion Board Report.)

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