Nutrient management is the process of managing the amount, source, placement, form, and timing of plant nutrients and soil amendments to ensure adequate soil fertility for plant production while minimizing potential for water quality impairment. The goal of the nutrient management research program is to evaluate best management practices that optimize crop yield/quality and minimize nutrient losses to the environment. This includes research on optimizing forage quality with genetic resources and crop selection, assessing nutrient use efficiency with double cropping/cover crops, and evaluating agronomic and environmental aspects of tile drainage.
Corn silage is a major crop for many dairy farms in the region and across the US. The role of corn silage in dairy rations and its impact on performance has been an active area of research at Miner since the 1990s. Recently, we have been evaluating the agronomic and forage quality characteristics of brown midrib (BMR) and non-BMR hybrids with funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP). Specifically, this research is comparing yield and forage quality among the two commercially available BMR genotypes (i.e., bm1 and bm3) and non-BMR hybrids. The third year of field research was completed in 2017 and results from 2015 and 2016 are available here. Each year, we also work with various seed companies and plant small plot corn silage trials to assist them in advancing the best corn silage hybrids for the region. Other forage related research topics include evaluating double cropping with corn silage and winter rye and comparing forage quality of winter rye and winter triticale (both funded by NNYADP).
By conducting trials that truly investigate the crop/animal interaction, the economic value of the forage quality can be determined and shared with dairy producers. Maximizing yield and quality of feeds produced on the farm improves farm profitability by reducing the need to purchase feeds required to balance healthy diets for cows.
Subsurface tile drainage is an important soil management practice used by many farms in the region and northern areas in general. The abundance of poorly drained soils and colder climate of the region necessitates the use of tile drains to improve farm profitability through increased crop yields/quality. Tile-drains also offer other agronomic benefits, such as reduced compaction potential, warmer soil temperatures, and a reduction in surface runoff and erosion. An active area of research at the Institute is quantifying nutrient losses in tile-drained fields to enable more accurate estimates of whole field nutrient efficiency. Phosphorus (P) is a key nutrient with respect to crop production and water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin. Our research is able to quantify the amount of P and nitrogen (N) leaving fields in the form of surface runoff and tile drain flow. In addition, our group is evaluating the effect of controlled subsurface tile drainage and cover crops as a best management practices for reducing nutrient export. We have four edge-of-field studies in progress investigating runoff nutrient losses in tile-drained fields (two funded by USDA-NRCS and two funded by NNYADP).