Drought conditions throughout many areas in the intermountain west and great plains can cause several plants and harvested forages the potential to accumulate excessive levels of nitrates. All plants contain some nitrates, however, in years such as 2002, forages grown under stress can accumulate toxic levels of nitrates. Nitrates in the soil are a primary source of nitrogen which is essential for plant growth. Under normal conditions nitrates are converted to protein in the plant at about the same rates as they are absorbed into the root system. Plant stress is the major course of nitrate accumulation and can be caused by one or several of the following factors like weather extremes, low light intensity, or herbicide application.


Quick Tips

  • Have forages tested for nitrates, it takes only one dead cow or sheep to pay for the test.
  • Test water sources if there is suspicion of high nitrates or a history of water problems.
  • Blend high nitrate feeds if possible with feeds known to have a lower level of nitrates.