Ken Ferrie calls the process of decomposing last year’s crop as it pulls nutrients from the soil as the "carbon penalty." In Episode 9 of "Corn College TV," Season 2, Ferrie shows farmers how paying the carbon penalty fits into the Systems Approach to farming.
"In your nitrogen management program, it’s all about timing and placement—not necessarily the total amount," he explains. "You’ve got to have the nutrients at the right place at the right time."
This fits into the carbon penalty because early in the season as soils warm up, microbial activity speeds up and immobilizes the available nitrogen.
"You have to manage nitrogen up front and have enough to carry through the back end of the crop’s development. If you have yellow corn early in the year, you aren’t managing for the carbon penalty. When you’re following a year like 2010 where we didn’t have much decomposition in the fall, the carbon penalty can easily tie up 150 lb. of nitrogen early in the season."
Learn more in this episode of "Corn College TV."