Producers can participate in the nitrate risk assessment program | News, Sports, Jobs


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Nitrate toxicity is a potential problem for livestock consuming small grain forages (wheat, barley, oats, etc.), crucifers, millet, sorghum, and sudangrass, as well as standing corn or harvested corn for hay. Although nitrates are generally not a problem on rangelands, pastures with nitrate-accumulating weeds such as kochia, lamb’s-quarters, pigweed, quackgrass and thistle can also be a problem. Nitrate toxicity is most often a problem in ruminants, with cattle being more susceptible than sheep.

Drought conditions are most often associated with nitrate problems; however, it is important to recognize that drought is not the only condition that can lead to nitrate buildup. Prolonged cool temperatures and cloudy conditions can also disrupt the conversion process and cause nitrate buildup in plants. Additionally, nitrates can build up due to conditions that reduce leaf area and limit photosynthesis, such as frost, hail, or disease.

Management factors such as planting and harvest dates, fertilization strategies, and crop rotation can also play a role in nitrate buildup. Additionally, soil type and species can influence nitrate levels.

The NDSU Ward County Extension office has access to the Nitrate QuikTest, a screening tool used to assess whether nitrate is present in standing forage. The Nitrate QuikTest is not designed to assess the nitrate content of harvested forages. It is designed to help make decisions about when to hay or graze. If nitrate is present, laboratory analysis is recommended.

Due to the variety of environmental and management factors that lead to nitrate buildup in forages, NDSU Extension is offering a new program for producers to encourage them to submit samples for laboratory analysis prior to grazing or haymaking. The program is called the Nitrate Risk Assessment Program or N-RAP. Through this program, NDSU Extension will pay for laboratory analysis to determine nitrate content. Participation is free and producers can submit multiple samples of suspect forage for nitrate analysis, if required. Producers will also receive a 35% educational discount for any additional testing (i.e. crude protein, energy, mineral content, etc.) they choose to have performed on samples submitted for nitrate testing. Producers will be asked to provide information about the management and environmental conditions of their forage samples to help us assess factors affecting nitrate accumulation statewide.

“Growers need to understand the potential risks of nitrate toxicity and the factors leading to nitrate buildup in plants,” said Paige Brummund, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Officer in Ward County. “Determining the nitrate content of grazed and harvested forages using N-RAP will help producers use these feeds safely and provide Extension with valuable information on the production and management of nitrate-accumulating forages.”

Contact the Ward County Extension Office at 857-6444 or email [email protected] for more information about sampling and participating in the N-RAP.



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Ryan H. Bowman