Nitrogen Levels High in Drought-Damaged Corn

Jul 17, 2012

State agriculture officials say farmers should take caution when turning their drought-damaged corn into silage.

Severe drought conditions have devastated western Kentucky’s corn crop. University of Kentucky Forage Specialist Garry Lacefield says one effect from drought is nitrogen build up in corn. Lacefield says nitrogen is essential to build proteins and enzymes in corn, but without water, the plant can’t convert the nitrogen it takes in.

“It stores the highest concentration in the stalk, and the highest concentration in the basal stalk, the lower foot to eighteen inches, but if it’s high enough and the stress is severe enough it accumulates in other components in the plant and when we feed that to animals it can kill the animals, it can be very toxic.”

Lacefield says silage processing reduces the level of nitrogen by 30 to 50 percent. But he says farmers should test silage at the time of feeding to make sure levels are safe. Details on how much nitrates different cattle can tolerate is available through local Ag Extension offices.