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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The overall goal for this project is to develop reduced-tillage grain production systems for both sustainable and organic grain farmers where biologically fixed nitrogen is maximized and coupled with supplementary fertility to optimize corn performance in high residue, reduced-tillage environments of the Mid-Atlantic region. Specific objectives include: 1) determine optimum starter fertilizer delivery rates of animal-based fertility products (pelleted poultry litter, feather meal, ground poultry litter) and organically approved mineral sources (Chilean nitrate) using no-till corn planter fertility delivery systems; 2) quantify impacts of soil-applied manure-based starter fertilizers on crop quality, yield, herbicide and fertilizer use, farm costs, and environmental parameters; 3) conduct on-farm demonstration trials that optimize nutrient management in reduced-tillage organic grain systems; and 4) disseminate knowledge gained from on-farm and on-station reduced-tillage grain crop research using on-farm field days, webinars, and The Rodale Institute New Farm website.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Our research objectives will be addressed by conducting on-station experiments at three research stations (BARC, North Carolina State University, and The Rodale Institute), and three organic farms chosen to represent a range of environmental conditions and management systems in organic grain cropping systems of the mid-Atlantic region. Replicated experimental plots will be established at each site consisting of a range of starter fertilizer amendments applied at corn planting into a cover crop mixture consisting of a high and low legume:grass ratio. The starter fertilizer amendments will include both mineral sources of fertility and animal-based products. The amendments will also include mixtures of animal-based products and organically approved mineral fertility sources.

3. Progress Report:
Organic farmers lack adequate approaches to fertilize corn in no-till production systems as 1) legumes alone rarely provide sufficient fertility and 2) there are currently no commercial options for subsurface banding of dry animal manure. We are testing a range of commercially available organic amendments that can be applied in a pelleted form through dry fertilizer boxes that have been commonly used on no-till planters. We have initiated trials throughout the mid-Atlantic region to examine the role of these organic amendments, applied at planting, to meet the nitrogen requirements of corn in an integrated green and animal manure fertility program.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 07/26/2017
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