Consider participation in NDSU Extension Nitrate Risk Assessment Program (N-RAP)

Nitrate toxicity is a potential issue for livestock consuming small-grain forages (wheat, barley, oats, etc.), brassicas, millet, sorghum and sudangrass, and standing corn or corn harvested for hay. Although nitrates typically are not an issue on rangelands, pastures with nitrate-accumulating weeds such as kochia, lambsquarter, pigweed, quackgrass and thistle also may be a problem. Nitrate toxicity is most commonly a problem in ruminants, with cattle more susceptible than sheep.

Drought conditions are most commonly associated with nitrate issues; however, it is important to recognize that drought is not the only condition that can lead to nitrate accumulation. Prolonged cool temperatures and cloudy conditions also can disrupt the conversion process and cause nitrate to build up in plants. Additionally, nitrates may accumulate 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 rotations can also play a role in nitrate accumulation. In addition, soil type and species can influence nitrate levels.

The NDSU Burke County Extension Office has the Nitrate QuikTest, which is a screening tool to assess whether nitrate is present. The Nitrate QuikTest is not designed to evaluate nitrate content levels in harvested forages. It will only inform producers of the presence or absence of nitrate. If nitrate is present, laboratory analysis is recommended.

Because of the variety of environmental and management factors that lead to nitrate accumulation in forages, NDSU Extension is offering a new program to producers to encourage them to submit samples for laboratory analysis prior to grazing or haying. The program is referred to as the Nitrate Risk Assessment Program or N-RAP. Through this program, NDSU Extension will pay for laboratory analysis to determine nitrate content. It is free to participate, and producers can submit multiple samples of suspect forages for nitrate analysis if applicable. Producers will also receive a 30% educational discount for any additional analyses (i.e. crude protein, energy, mineral content, etc.) they choose to have conducted on samples submitted for nitrate analysis. Producers will be asked to provide information on management and environmental conditions of their forage samples to help us evaluate factors affecting nitrate accumulation across the state.

Producers need to understand the potential risks of nitrate toxicity and the factors leading to nitrate accumulation in plants. Determining nitrate content of grazed and harvested forages through N-RAP will help producers utilize these feedstuffs in a safe manner and provide Extension with valuable insight on production and management of nitrate-accumulating forages. Please contact the Burke County Extension Office (701-377-2927) for additional information about sampling and participation in N-RAP or call me direct at 701-339-1133

I also have a hay probe for coring bales to collect samples. I will come to probe your bales or you can borrow the probe from our office.