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Potassium management during the rotation from alfalfa to corn

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High K fertilizer prices in recent years have made it imperative for growers to apply optimum K rates to alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). Current university fertilizer guidelines in the Corn Belt do not change for the last production year, when alfalfa stand persistence is not a major concern. Furthermore, little is known about carryover of K applied to alfalfa on first-year corn (Zea mays L.) grain and silage yields. In 2008 to 2010, on-farm research was conducted on 10 fields with medium soil test potassium (STK) to determine response to K for alfalfa yield and quality in the last production year, and to estimate K carryover to first-year corn. Alfalfa yield and relative feed value (RFV) and quality (RFQ) did not improve with K fertilization. Herbage K concentration and K uptake increased with K fertilization across sites, indicating that applied K was available during the season of application. When corn relied on carryover K alone, each 100 kg ha−1 increase in the index of available K increased corn grain yield by 0.5 Mg ha−1, decreased stover yield by 0.4 Mg ha−1, and did not affect silage yields. Regardless of K rate applied to alfalfa, additional K applied to corn increased corn stover and silage yields by 10 and 8%, respectively. This suggests that carryover K was less available than K applied to corn. On medium STK soils going into the last year of alfalfa, applying fertilizer K to first-year corn rather than alfalfa may enhance economic return.
Yost, Matt A. , Russelle, Michael P. , Coulter, Jeffrey A. , Sheaffer, Craig C. , Kaiser, Daniel E.
Includes references
Agronomy journal 2011 Nov., v. 103, no. 6
American Society of Agronomy
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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