Challenging weather conditions in some areas of the state may lead to nitrate accumulation in summer annual crops like corn silage, forage sorghum, and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids this fall.
There are several practices that can help to mitigate potential issues with nitrate toxicity. The best option is to delay harvest until conditions have passed. After a significant rain event, it is advised to wait at least 3-5 days to harvest. Increasing the cutting height of the forage can also help to reduce overall nitrate concentration as most of the accumulation is in the base of the plant. Finally, fermenting the forage has been found to reduce nitrate concentration in the forage by about half over the period of fermentation. These annual forages are well suited to store as baleage or silage.
While many nitrate feeding issues can be resolved by ensiling forages, high nitrate levels pose a risk to producers this harvest season. Nitrogen dioxide is formed in the silo when nitrates in plants combine with oxygen. This gas is dense and sinks into low-lying areas in the silo or attached feed room. Inhaling this gas can result in chronic respiratory problems, fluid buildup in the lungs, or, at high levels, instant death. The highest risk period for gas formation is 12 to 60 hours after filling the silo, but gas may be produced for up to 3 weeks. Be sure to aerate enclosed areas well if it is necessary to reenter the silo.
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