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New Year’s Resolutions for Better Soil

By Mosaic Agronomy Team


New Year’s Resolutions for Better Soil


My Product Infusion Philosophy

For farmers looking to make improvements year after year, spending time analyzing and evaluating inputs is time well spent. The winter months for Minnesota farmer Matt Lantz are reserved for pouring over data and making smart decisions for the coming year.

“While we can look at test strips and certain plots during the growing season, we don’t really know how inputs affect yield until after the harvest is in,” explains Lantz. “Knowing how those inputs helped determine a tangible yield number helps us determine how well it worked and how to incorporate them into the next growing season.”

Lantz is quick to point out that different inputs require different types of analysis and evaluation. Yield data takes more time to fully evaluate, whereas the results of a fungicide test strip may be immediately understood. However, Lantz does place more weight on data he collects on his own farm.

“I always want to know what is happening in my own geography, and specifically on my own farm,” continues Lantz. “What works for one farmer in other areas of the country, or even in my own state, may not work for me. But I also rely on local experts, like our agronomist, to tell me about new products. He may suggest trying a new input, and we’ll incorporate it on a small scale. Once we see how it performs, we can then determine how to incorporate more broadly on more acres.”

Spending time evaluating inputs is as important as putting seed in the ground for Lantz. With lower commodity prices, not all inputs provide worthwhile returns, so knowing what will increase yields without breaking the bank is key. “The better educated decisions we can make on inputs, the better odds we have of a positive return,” adds Lantz. “Every year is different, especially with changing commodity prices, but our approach to evaluating data and analyzing valuable inputs remains the same.”

Every January, millions of resolutions are made to eat healthier, get organized, or stop bad habits. But New Year’s resolutions can be made on the farm, too – especially when it comes to improving your soil fertility. 

Just as soil fertility is the foundation for a successful crop, pH levels and drainage are the cornerstones for a good  soil fertility program. No amount of fertilizer can increase crop yields if pH levels and drainage are not optimal. When soil pH levels are between 6 and 7, it allows for optimal availability of phosphorus. Low soil pH can make it difficult for plants to access nutrients like magnesium and molybdenum, while high soil pH can reduce the availability of other nutrients like zinc, boron, iron, and copper.

Once pH levels and drainage issues are addressed, nutrient management plans should be scrutinized using an historic look at  soil tests. Determine if there are trends in soil test results over time and find areas in the field with better soil attributes and compare with areas with lower fertility.

Soil test results will also outline what nutrients are needed to provide balanced crop nutrition. Balanced crop nutrition goes beyond N, P and K. There are 17 essential  plant nutrients, and each one is required to help crops meet their full yield potential. In fact, as much as 60 percent of yield is dependent on soil fertility, so adjusting your fertilizer plan to account for as many of the 17 nutrients needed is a surefire way to increase yields.

Finally, consider entrenching  the 4Rs into your fertilizer strategy. Applying the right source of nutrition in the right amount at the right place and at the right time is the best way to use fertilizers more responsibly. Balancing the need to increase yield with environmental stewardship will be the path forward for farmers looking to be more sustainable. The 4Rs is an ideal way to provide crops with the nutrition they require while reducing any environmental impacts.

With each New Year comes new opportunities for success, and as farming evolves, continuous improvements must be sought. With the right plan in place, a goal of improving soil health can be met.

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