Composted cattle manure is NOT detrimental to sugar beet production

Composted cattle manure is NOT detrimental to sugar beet production

beet harvester used in the research at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center

During times of economic uncertainty and decline, all costs of agricultural production including fertilizers become important and require re-evaluation. In sugar beet production, most farmers do not have an option of manure as an alternative N source since N availability from manure can occur too late in the season and affect sugar quality. Composted cattle manure as different as it is from fresh manure might be a viable alternative N source for sugar beet production.

In the recent publication in the Agronomy Journal, Bijesh Maharjan and Gary Hergert reported on three-year studies from Nebraska Panhandle where different rates of composted beef manure were compared against urea in sugar beet production. The team found no adverse effect of composted beef manure in beet production and rather, composted beef manure produced yields comparable to urea. Composted beef manure presents a viable alternative N source for sugar beet production especially during times when chemical fertilizers get cost-prohibitive, and provided that purchase and transport cost of composted manure are minimal.

Take Home Messages:

  • Beet yield response to composted beef manure plateaued at about 10.3 tons per acre (in 2009-2010) and 6.2 tons per acre (in 2011) with corresponding fresh beet yields of 27.8 and 34.8 tons per acre.
  • Composted beef manure at application rates of 8 and 16 tons per acre statistically matched what urea rates of 60 and 110 lbs N per acre achieved in terms of beet yield.
  • It is important to account for residual nitrate-N in soil profile deeper than 4 ft when managing nitrogen in beet.

The study underscores an opportunity and need to explore improved beet varieties, strive for better crop stand, and consideration for leguminous crop in rotation.

This article was reviewed by Rick Koelsch and Leslie Johnson

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