August 31, 2016

Nutrient Removal in Grain

A good understanding of the amount of plant nutrients removed from the soil in the harvested portion of a crop is an important aspect of nutrient management. While a number of sources provide estimates of the amount of plant nutrients removed with a harvested crop, more precise nutrient removal values can be obtained by analyzing the concentration of nutrients in the crop. This can be done by submitting grain samples for a Crop Nutrient Removal Analysis.

There are several factors that can cause the actual concentration of nutrients in a given crop to vary from the average, including weather conditions, plant genetics, management practices, and soil properties

Nutrient removal analysis is similar to other plant tissue analyses in which the material is dried, ground and digested so that the concentration of various nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and various micronutrients can be determined for the sample. For grain samples, the results are then calculated and expressed as pounds per bushel based on a standard test weight and moisture content for a given crop. As with any other analysis, proper sample collection is crucial. For grain crops, collect a sample of grain that best represents the entire area, and submit 1 to 2 cups to the lab for analysis. Results will be presented on a pound per bushel and pounds per acre basis. The crop removal data can be reported based on the actual crop yield for the sampled area if the yield is provided for the submitted sample.

The utility of this type of analysis is not limited to grain samples. This data can be very useful for determining nutrient removal for other commodities such as fruits, vegetables, hay, straw, and silage. Since harvesting these crops often removes greater amounts of vegetative material and the concentration of nutrients in vegetative parts of a plant can be quite variable, nutrient removal values can differ considerably. To analyze for nutrient removal in these crops, submit 1 to 2 pounds of material for analysis.

Although considerable differences may exist between the results of a specific analysis and the reference values, this data is not intended to assess the fertility status of a crop or diagnose nutrient deficiencies. While nutrient removal data can be a valuable tool for managing soil fertility, it is only one piece of the puzzle. A good routine soil sampling plan remains the basis for a sound soil fertility program.

 

August 31, 2016

Fall Management of Alfalfa

Fall is a critical time of year to manage alfalfa to ensure maximum productivity and stand longevity. Unlike annual crops such as corn and soybean, fall is when the alfalfa plant begins to store additional sugar, protein, and nutrient reserves in the crown and root system, which will provide protection from the cold winter weather and facilitate vigorous growth next spring. In a year such as this one, where hot and dry weather this summer was especially stressful to the plant, it is crucial to allow the alfalfa crop to prepare for the cold months ahead.


One of the most important management practices involves timely harvest. Final cuttings should be made early enough in the fall to allow the crop to regrow adequately and replenish necessary reserves before a killing frost, and should generally be completed by early to mid-September, depending on your location and local climate. More guidance on the exact timing can be obtained from state Extension publications or your local Extension agent. This is also a good time of year to assess the overall health and quality of an alfalfa crop, including evaluating stand density and root and crown health, allowing you to address any problems before they become serious.


Also critical for maintaining a successful alfalfa stand is managing the fertility of the crop. Fall is a good time of year to make fertilizer and lime applications. Low levels of nutrients, particularly potassium (K), can also lead to reduced stand health and vigor. In addition to the other essential functions of K in the plant, K plays an important role in the plants’ ability to resist subfreezing temperatures, and low levels of K in the plant can lead to increased winterkill if conditions are favorable. In addition, maintaining a proper pH with liming is critical for a number of reasons, including maximizing the availability of other nutrients and ensuring successful nitrogen fixation. Since lime requires adequate soil moisture and time in order to affect soil pH, making lime applications in the fall allows the liming material time to react and can have a greater effect on next year’s crop.


Careful management of your alfalfa crop this fall can mean a stronger, more vigorous crop next year. Therefore, taking some time to care for your alfalfa crop today can mean better results tomorrow and beyond.

July 27, 2016

Spring Cleaning

What is the most effective and dramatic way to clean up an area?  Renovate, replace and redecorate.  Keeping our instrumentation and computer equipment on the cutting edge has always been a priority at A & L Great Lakes Laboratories.  As a result, much of the décor in our employee breakroom and conference room have existed since we moved to this location in 1987.

However, the time had now arrived to enhance areas for our employees and customers.  We began by emptying the employee breakroom of all content, including cabinets and flooring.  With new furnishings and a fresh coat of paint, the breakroom has taken on a new life with additional seating and a refreshing space for employees to take a break or enjoy their lunch.  Our employees at A & L Great Lakes are vital to our operations and accordingly deserve this atmosphere.

A&L Great Lakes breakroom

 

Next we focused on the lobby and conference room to elevate our customer experience.  Furnishings, flooring and paint also rejuvenated the lobby area while providing additional workspace and a better supply display.  In our conference room, technology was a major consideration for presentations and audio communication for business interactions.  A comfortable space with ample seating represents our company’s commitment to being easy to work with. 

A&L Great Lakes Conference Room

We invite you to check these spaces out the next time you are at the laboratory.  The completed project has been rewarding as many employees were not afraid to get their hands dirty and assisted with demolition and painting.  Great pride and ownership has been taken of these areas and will serve our employees and guests well for many years to come.

July 27, 2016

Manure Analysis for CNMP’s

Land application of livestock manure can be a very cost-effective source of nutrients for crop producers as well as an efficient means of waste disposal for livestock producers. However, to get the most value from a manure application and minimize any potential off-site environmental impacts, it is important to follow the 4R’s of nutrient stewardship. This means using the right source, the right rate, at the right time, with the right placement. The development of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can be a very useful tool for livestock producers looking to responsibly land apply their manure.

The basic requirements of a CNMP are described in the NRCS Conservation Practice Standard 590. However, it is always best to check with your local NRCS office to determine any specific requirements for your area. Two of the key elements in developing a CNMP require laboratory analysis. First, the fields where the manure is to be applied must have current soil test data that is no older than three years. This will ensure that the nutrients are not being over applied. The second laboratory analysis is a nutrient analysis of the manure. This will ensure that the correct rate is being applied.

Laboratory analysis of manure for CNMP’s must include, at a minimum, total nitrogen, ammonium nitrogen, total phosphorus, and total potassium. The benefit in using an analysis package that include ammonium nitrogen is that the estimation of first year available nitrogen is much more accurate as compared to a calculated value based on total nitrogen alone. The analysis package available at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories that provides the minimum requirement for CNMP’s is the M4. For a complete listing of manure analysis packages, please visit our website and navigate to manure analysis under services.

July 27, 2016

Sampling for SCN

Interest has been steadily growing in soil sampling for Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN), and with good reason. SCN continues to be the leading yield loss pathogen in U.S. soybean production. The impacts of SCN continue to grow as the pest continues to spread throughout the soybean production acres of the U.S. The map below shows how SCN has spread from a small isolated area along the Mississippi River in 1957 to the last survey in 2014. It is particularly concerning how quickly the area affected has expanded since 2001.

Map depicting the spread of Soybean Cyst Nematode

http://www.soybeanresearchinfo.com/diseases/scnpics/SCN_dist57_14_lg.gif

The spread of SCN through the Great Lakes region, increased focus on high yield soybeans, the potential link of Sudden Death Syndrome to plants experiencing SCN feeding, and new products on the market showing some level of SCN control has increased the interest in sampling for SCN.

Sampling for SCN can take two forms: a diagnostic approach to identify a crop issue, or a proactive management approach looking at whole field SCN levels to determine future planned management activities. Each of the approaches have different sampling procedures and interpretations, but utilize the same laboratory procedures. A N-CYST test from A&L Great Lakes Laboratories provides a count of both SCN eggs and adult SCN cysts which are used to identify treatment and management thresholds.

A diagnostic approach is used when a yellow and stunted area of a soybean field is suspected to have elevated SCN populations leading to the visual symptoms. In this case, soil sampling for SCN will be targeted to verify the presence and amount of SCN in the affected area. While visual inspection of the roots can note the presence of SCN, it does not quantify the population. SCN may be present, but at populations below the threshold at which injury should occur. To properly sample for SCN, 8 or more soil sample cores should be taken 6 to 8 inches deep in the affected area. If the field has a history of elevated SCN levels it may be advisable to take a sample from a portion of the field not showing visual symptoms to collect comparative data. Place the soil cores in a clean plastic bucket. Once all of the cores are collected, thoroughly mix the sample and place two cups of soil into a sealed and labeled soil sample bag or plastic bag. The samples should be sealed to avoid moisture loss and protected from extreme temperatures; do not freeze or refrigerate, or leave in the dash of the truck on a summer day. A cooler can be very helpful for sample storage during collection. If the samples are handled in such a way that lead to cyst death, the adult counts will be negatively impacted. Ship or deliver to the lab a quickly as possible.

As a tool for proactive management of SCN, whole field samples can be collected to identify average SCN populations across a field or region of a field. This method is helpful in identifying fields that need additional management to address SCN, but populations can be underestimated when sampling a large area, because small areas of very high SCN populations can be diluted with unaffected areas. Whole field sampling for SCN mirrors traditional whole field composite soil fertility samples. Take samples late in the growing season after flower through harvest. Collect a minimum of 10 to 20 soil cores to a depth of 6 to 8 inches, while walking in a zig-zag pattern across the field, and place the soil cores in a clean plastic bucket. Once all of the cores are collected, thoroughly mix the sample and place two cups of soil into a sealed and labeled plastic bag. Again protect the samples from drying out and from extreme temperatures while shipping the samples to the laboratory as quickly as possible.

For any additional questions regarding SCN sampling, feel free to contact your A&L Great Lakes Laboratories agronomist or call the laboratory directly as 260-483-4759.
June 30, 2016

Feed for Thought

Forage crops are a cornerstone of many livestock feeding programs. However, to get the most benefit from the forage, it is critical to know the nutritional value of the material so that a proper nutritional program can be developed around that forage. Forage testing can provide this valuable information. However, a good forage analysis begins with proper sampling technique.

A quality feed sample should be as representative of the lot as possible, and that lot should be constituted of relatively uniform materials. For example, it is best to sample each cutting of hay separately, as the quality and composition of the feed can be affected by a number of factors, such as weather, moisture content at harvest, and maturity of the crop. To collect a forage sample, collect sub samples from different bales within the lot and combine them together to make up your sample. More detailed information on how to collect samples from different types of forages can be found in our sampling guide, available on our website or by clicking here.

A question that we often get here at the lab is "is my hay any good?" Different things make a good quality hay to different people in different situations: what one person considers good is not necessarily what someone else would consider good. Analyzing your forages gives you the information necessary to see how that forage fits into an overall feeding program. By working with an animal nutritionist, you can then tailor a feeding program to meet the needs of your particular operation.

June 29, 2016

Agronomists Leading the Charge for Cleaner Water

Since the introduction of the Certified Crop Advisor program by the American Society of Agronomy in 1992, quite a bit in agriculture has changed. Through all of the challenges and changes during the past 20 years, Certified Crop Advisors have been at the forefront of examining the situation at hand, formulating solutions, and educating others in the industry. As nutrient management challenges impact water quality around the country, Certified Crop Advisors are taking the lead once again with the introduction of the 4R Nutrient Management Specialist certification.

The 4R Nutrient Management Specialist certification was added to the Certified Crop Advisor repertoire of skills and knowledge to focus on nutrient management and the resulting environmental impact. In August of 2015 the first 4R Nutrient Management Specialist examination was held with a limited number of participants. A larger group took the exam in January of 2016 focusing on the Right Rate, Right Source, Right Place, and Right Time to apply nutrients. States participating in the new specialty certification include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The certified agronomy staff at A&L Great Lakes Laboratories has begun earning this specialist certification, and will continue to certify agronomy staff members during future exams.

June 29, 2016

Know Your Irrigation Water!

When grain prices were on the rise, irrigation management began to garner more focus in the desire to manage soil moisture levels for optimal yield. This drove greater awareness in soil moisture monitoring and variable rate applications based on the water holding capacity of the soil. As the cost to pump water remains a large expense, there is focus on continually improving water use efficiency through maintenance of the irrigation systems and soil moisture monitoring. The traditional focus of irrigation management has been on technology and the equipment itself. However, the fundamental input of irrigation is still often overlooked; the water itself.
 
Many producers in the Great Lakes region feel that irrigation water testing is not needed since we do not face the salinity and sodium issues that are seen in arid regions of the United States. While it is true that salinity and sodium are rarely a concern for irrigated production systems in the Great Lakes region, we have our own unique challenges that must be managed appropriately.
 
The majority of our irrigation water in the Great Lakes region is “hard”, due to high levels of calcium based minerals. Long term application of untreated irrigation water that is high in calcium carbonate can lead to several challenges. This water tends to have a high pH that can lead to increased pH of surface soils over time causing nutrient availability issues, or could led to herbicide carryover issues. These effects can be exaggerated on sandy or low CEC soils. Irrigation water high in calcium or iron can also lead to calcium deposits on irrigation equipment leading to non-uniform water applications and additional maintenance costs.  An irrigation water suitability test is key in identifying the severity of high pH and high calcium carbonate levels, and can be used to identify, calibrate, and verify cost effective corrective actions.

Irrigation water quality changes during a short period may be slight, but over time can be significant. A water source that started with good quality may change so that it is no longer acceptable for the intended use.

We strongly encourage all users of irrigation water to establish a water quality baseline for each source (well) by testing the water. Follow-up tests should be conducted periodically to determine if the water quality has changed and, if so, the potential effect on the water use.

May 27, 2016

Spray Water Testing

A key tool that producers can use to reduce the risk of developing herbicide resistant weeds is to use full rates of herbicides. Reducing the application rate of herbicides can help select for and speed up the development of resistant weeds in the plant population.

Minerals in the water used to spray herbicides can reduce the effectiveness of glyphosate and, in effect, reduce the application rate. Many producers use AMS to combat this process. The following article, originally published in No-Till Farmer magazine, does a very good job of explaining the need to determine the correct AMS use rate with glyphosate products.

Our Spray Water Test packages provide a suggested minimum AMS use rate by entering the lab results into an equation developed by researchers at North Dakota State University. However, herbicide users must always read and follow the herbicide label.

 

Why Your Glyphosate May Not Be Working - No-Till Farmer

May 25, 2016

Environmental Monitoring Requirements for Livestock Facilities

A&L Great Lakes Laboratories offers many analytical services as well as the technical expertise to assist livestock producers of every size to manage and monitor nutrients both in the field and around the facility.  We are able to assist our customers in the livestock industry with nutrient analysis that will help them manage manure and site run-off water in a responsible manner that insures compliance with state and federal regulations, provides an economical source of nutrients for cropland and maintains good stewardship practices for the environment.

Many Illinois livestock producers come under the Illinois Depart of Agriculture Waste Management part 900 “Livestock Management Facility Regulations” that require perimeter drainage tile sampling, analysis and reporting for storm water around certain livestock facilities.  According to section 900.511…

“The owner or operator of the livestock waste handling facility shall sample the liquid from the monitoring port prior to the livestock waste handling facility being placed into service and at least quarterly thereafter, if any liquid is available.  The samples shall be analyzed for the following items: Nitrate-nitrogen, phosphate-phosphorus, Chloride, sulfate and ammonia-nitrogen.”

We would be happy to assist our livestock customers with facility water, tile water, manure and soil sample analysis in support of your manure management and facility monitoring program.  If your state requires a specific test for additional nutrients, please contact the lab and we would be happy to discuss your individual needs.

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