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.