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Fluid Journal : Fall 2012
Fall 2012 The Fluid Journal 06 The use of corn as a bio-energy feedstock has attracted the attention of many producers, especially in the Corn Belt states. With the focus shifting from grain-based to cellulose-based ethanol production, corn stover (stalks and cobs) is now an important feedstock material. In addition to biological conversion of corn stover to ethanol, thermal conversion (pyrolysis) of stover to bio-oil, syngas, and biochar is being explored as an alternative platform. Regardless of post-harvest processing, the short- and long-term effects of both increasing grain yields and harvesting stover on soil nutrient cycling, physical properties and biological activity must be understood to ensure that soil productivity and ecosystem services are maintained. To ensure long-term sustainability, the bio-energy industry initially focused on determining the amount of crop residues that must remain in the field to prevent wind and water erosion and subsequently, loss of soil organic carbon. Through collaborative ARS, university, and private industry research, studies have shown that the use of no-till production can reduce the rate In controlled-environment tests, overall agronomic efﬁciency of P ﬂuid fertilizers was improved by biochar applications. The Fluid Journal • Ofﬁcial Journal of the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation • Fall 2012 • Vol. 20, No. 4, Issue# 78 Drs. John Kovar and Douglas Karlen Value of Fluid Fertilizer In Bio-energy Production Summary: In field trials, analysis of whole corn plants at V6 and ear leaves at mid-silk showed adequate levels of all macronutrients, which suggests that nutrient management was balanced both for conventional and intensively managed (twin-row) planting scenarios and the amount of stover removed from the field with the 2010 harvest. Management scenario, tillage, and previous stover removal did not affect corn grain yields, which varied from 172 to 182 bu/A in 2011. In addition, biochar application and cover crop growth had no effect on grain or stover yields. The amount of dry stover collected for the 90 percent stover removal treatment averaged 2.9 tons/A compared to 1.8 tons/A for the 50 percent treatment. In 2011, the intensively managed plots did not produce more grain or dry stover than the conventional plots. In a separate controlled-climate chamber study, biochar and phosphorus (P) fertilizer amendments affected soil P supply and corn seedling growth during five consecutive plant growth cycles. Plants grown in soil with only 100 lbs/A of P2O5 had greater shoot to root dry matter ratios for both legacy and fresh biochar treatments. Although cumulative shoot dry matter production tended to be higher for treatments without biochar, the overall agronomic efficiency of the P fluid fertilizer was improved by biochar application. Further statistical analysis of plant growth and nutrient uptake data is expected to provide a clearer picture of the fertilizer value of biochar, any biochar-fertilizer interactions, and how legacy or fresh biochar affect juvenile corn nutrition. of residue decomposition, thus offering a mechanism to maintain soil organic carbon after removing a site-specific portion of the stover. A significant amount of research has addressed fertility requirements and nutrient cycling in conventional grain production systems, but only recently has information on bio-energy feedstock systems become available. To provide more quantitative fertility guidelines, soil management studies are needed focusing on cropping systems, tillage, fertilizer rates and placement, use of cover crops, and controlled wheel traffic. Because it would be difficult to address all of these variables in a single project, the research in this particular study focuses on nutrient requirements, specifically P, potassium (K), and sulfur (S) for no-till corn bio-energy production systems. There has also been significant interest in the use of biochar as a soil amendment for sequestering carbon and improving agricultural soil quality. Crop yield increases and improvements in soil physical and chemical properties have been reported, but variability among the responses has been significant. Biochars have some plant nutrient content, but nutrient availability can vary widely. Biochars cannot be considered a substitute for fertilizers, although there have been reports that yields of radish (Raphanus sativus) increased with increasing rates of biochar in combination with N fertilizer, suggesting that biochar played a role in improving N-use efficiency. Application of biochar to soil may also enhance P availability and improve P-use efficiency. Preliminary research has shown that additions of biochar tend to increase Mehlich 3-extractable P and reduce P leaching when applied in combination with animal manures. Research goal The goal of this project is to evaluate the use of NPKS fluid fertilizers to enhance corn grain and stover productivity. A secondary goal is to determine the role of biochar application in nutrient cycling. This project is part of a long-term corn grain and stover removal study that focuses on standard and intensive fertility management, tillage, biochar additions to test the "charcoal vision" for sustaining
Late Spring 2012