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The Use of Allganic® Nitrogen for Organic Wheat Production, 2013

Allganic® Nitrogen, containing 16% nitrogen (N), is also known in the trade as sodium nitrate or Chilean nitrate, and is a natural product obtained from the Caliche ore in the Atacama Desert of Chile by mechanical and hydraulic processes. The caliche ore, a "nitrogenous rock" undergoes physical processing at low temperatures similar to those of the surrounding environment. Due to its natural origin, Allganic® Nitrogen is an allowed input in USDA certified organic farming.

Allganic® Nitrogen does not require transformations in the soil to become part of the soil solution and be available for plant uptake. This fertilizer can be applied at different times during the early growing season, or at least until the last cultivation. Because of these two characteristics, Allganic® Nitrogen can be used to synchronize available soil N with crop demand during the important early growth stages.

Working with Kathleen Delate, Professor, Iowa State University Organic Agriculture Program, we investigated the use of Allganic® Nitrogen to supply 20% of the N required by organic wheat. This research was conducted on a wheat field in Jefferson, Iowa, in 2013. This product has proven to be particularly important in early season when soil temperatures are still cold and at times of excessive spring rains, which may reduce available soil nitrogen by limiting N mineralization rate and by increasing nitrate leaching, respectively.

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Materials and Methods

The Allganic® Nitrogen was supplied by SQM, along with the Soda-Flo® side-dress box with applicator tubes, which was attached to a tractor to apply the Allganic® Nitrogen as a side-dress to each row. The experimental design plots consisted of 40 x 1,100 ft. of drilled wheat; three with Allganic® Nitrogen and three without:

1. Wheat crop cultivated following the normal practices for organic wheat (check plot).
2. Wheat crop cultivated following the normal practices for organic wheat with the additional application of Allganic® Nitrogen to supply 20% of crop N demand (Allganic® Nitrogen plot).
Wheat was planted on October 6, 2012, at 120 lb/acre on a prior soybean field. The treated plots were fertilized with 160 lb/acre of Allganic® Nitrogen or 25.6 lb N/acre on May 15, 2013.

Wheat plots were combined on July 17 and weighed using the yield monitor in the combine.
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When wheat plants were measured on June 10, plants appeared taller in the Allganic® Nitrogen plots, but height was numerically, not statistically higher, at 31 inches, compared to 30 inches in the control plots (Table 1). There was no statistical difference in plant populations between the two treatments, which averaged 4,486,680 plants/acre (Table 1), nor in plant biomass, which averaged 5,597 lb/acre.

Treatment

Average height (in)

Stems (plants/acre)

Dry weight (lb/acre)

Allganic® Nitrogen

31.04

4,181,760

5,110.58

Control

30.28

4,791,600

6,082.76

LSD0.05

NS

NS

NS

p value
( α= 0.05)

0.7233

0.3552

0.2313

Table 1. Wheat height, stem count, and biomass in the Allganic® Nitrogen Wheat Trial, Jefferson, IA, 6/10/2013.

Yields, however, were statistically greater in the Allganic® Nitrogen plots, averaging 45 bu/acre, compared to 37 bu/acre in the control plots (Table 2).

Treatment

Yield (bu/acre)

Allganic® Nitrogen

45 ± 0.559a

Control

37 ± 0.838b

LSD0.05

1.68

p value
( α= 0.05)

0.0001*

Table 2. Wheat yield in the Allganic® Nitrogen Wheat Trial, Jefferson, IA, 2013.

Protein levels in the Allganic® Nitrogen plots were also statistically greater, at 12%, compared to 11% in the control plots (Table 3).

Treatment

Protein (%)

Allganic® Nitrogen

12 ± 0.132a

Control

11 ± 0.122b

LSD0.05

0.40

p value
( α= 0.05)

0.0061*

Table 3. Protein analysis in the Allganic® Nitrogen Wheat Trial, Jefferson, IA, 8/30/2013.

Despite the challenging weather in 2013 that included extensive rain and cool temperatures in the early summer, followed by drought conditions in July, the use of Allganic® Nitrogen proved beneficial for the organic wheat crop, in terms of enhancing plant growth, yield, and protein. There was an average 16% (8 bu/acre) increase in wheat treated with Allganic® Nitrogen. This amounted to a $152/acre increase in income for organic wheat. Allganic® Nitrogen can be particularly important after heavy rain when soil nitrogen suffers from leaching and/or run-off or in the early season when soil temperature is still cool.

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Trials