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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 104 No. 4, p. 953-962
    Received: Nov 29, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): yostx051@umn.edu
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Alfalfa Nitrogen Credit to First-Year Corn: Potassium, Regrowth, and Tillage Timing Effects

  1. Matt A. Yost *a,
  2. Jeffrey A. Coultera,
  3. Michael P. Russellec,
  4. Craig C. Sheaffera and
  5. Daniel E. Kaiserb
  1. a Dep. of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, Univ. of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108
    c USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, St. Paul, MN 55108
    b Dep. of Soil, Water, and Climate, Univ. of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108


Compared with corn (Zea mays L.) following corn, N guidelines for first-year corn following alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in the U.S. Corn Belt suggest that N rates can be reduced by about 168 kg N ha−1 when ≥43 or 53 alfalfa plants m−2 are present at termination. These guidelines have been questioned by practitioners, however, as corn grain yields have increased. We conducted experiments at 16 locations in Minnesota to address questions regarding N availability to first-year corn after alfalfa relating to the effect of carryover fertilizer K from alfalfa and the amount and timing of alfalfa regrowth incorporation. Corn grain yield, silage yield, and fertilizer N uptake were not affected by carryover K or amount or timing of regrowth incorporation. Maximum corn grain yield ranged from 12.0 to 16.1 Mg ha−1 among locations but responded to fertilizer N at only one. At that location, which had inadequate soil drainage, the economically optimum N rate (EONR) was 85 kg N ha−1, assuming prices of US$0.87 kg−1 N and US$132 Mg−1 grain. The EONR for silage yield across 6 of 15 locations where it was measured was 40 kg N ha−1, assuming US$39 Mg−1 silage. These results demonstrate that on highly productive medium- to fine-textured soils in the Upper Midwest with ≥43 alfalfa plants m−2 at termination, first-year corn grain yield is often maximized without fertilizer N, regardless of alfalfa regrowth management or timing of incorporation, but that small N applications may be needed to optimize silage yield.

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