Nitrogen and Carbon Management in Corn

January-March 2002

Jim Fawcett , crop specialist

PROBLEM:
Nitrogen (N) is an important nutrient for achieving optimum corn yields, but too much N can lead to environmental problems. There are also environmental concerns about the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. One proposed method for reducing the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is for farmers to store carbon in the soil.


RESPONSE:
Research plots were established in Tama and Linn counties to examine the corn yield response and N test results to different N rates and the impact of N rates on soil carbon accumulation. Plot tours were conducted at both sites so that local crop producers could see the side-by-side comparisons of the different nitrogen rates and discuss the environmental implications of nitrogen use and carbon storage. The Linn County tour was done in cooperation with the Linn County NRCS, PURE Water Quality project and Kirkwood Community College . Donations from several chemical companies paid for the meal at the Linn County tour, with some additional dollars left over for salary savings. John Sawyer, Mahdi Al-Kaisi and I led the discussion at both of the tour sites.


IMPACT:
There was a considerable amount of discussion at both of the plot tours by the farmers and agribusiness participants. Elaine Ilvess, from Jim Gulliford's office of the Conservation Division of IDALS attended the Tama County plot tour and commented afterwards that it was nice to attend a tour where there was a lot of farmer interest and discussion. Large signs at both sites increased the visibility of ISU Extension at work. The research results will also have an impact on future N management and carbon sequestration decisions.

 

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