Potassium management during the rotation from alfalfa to corn

Matt A. Yost, Michael P. Russelle, Jeffrey A Coulter, Craig C Sheaffer, Daniel Kaiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


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 aff ect 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1785-1793
Number of pages9
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


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