Volatile prices, changing foreign markets and weather events represent some of the uncontrollable factors facing farmers every year. As you look to limit that risk by eliminating yield-inhibiting factors, you may want to start with the soil beneath their feet. Making sure your soil is up to the challenge of the upcoming season is the first step toward minimizing risk.
When it comes to crop nutrition and your soil fertility plan, you need to make sure you've dotted your i's and crossed your t's. Checklists aren't for everyone, but defining a clear process to ensure you are properly covering bases is critical in the execution of a successful nutrient management plan. Feel free to use and print the Soil Fertility Checklist below as your starting point.
Even before the 2013 crop is in the bin, growers should begin putting thought into how they will proactively manage their 2014 fertility programs. One of the most important investments made in a crop season, a fertility program should be looked at holistically, and involve preparatory steps and decisions long before winter’s downtime.
Soil sampling has adapted and evolved over time. As genetics, crop nutrition, equipment and precision ag technologies have matured, so has the need for more advanced soil sampling in the field.
When an agronomist visits a field to diagnose a problem, it’s not unlike a doctor attempting to uncover the source of a patient’s discomfort.
Whether striving to reach 300-bushel-per-acre corn, 80-bushel-per-acre soybeans or just steady yield growth on their acreage, farmers are focused on continuous improvement. As Michael Porter’s quote suggests, this type of continuous improvement goes hand in hand with strategy. Farmers who commit to a regular soil-sampling strategy, for example, often make more-informed decisions about their farm’s ongoing productivity.
As growers in the Midwest pulled planters across their acreage, many were calculating what types of yields are needed to give them the return they’re hoping for.
The first step in effectively using soil test results to your advantage is comparing the results to historical records to ensure the results make sense. Remember, when comparing current soil tests to historical data, that the information was gathered at the same time of year, because nutrient availability can change during the year. While trends may be evident, any big change in nutrient levels in the soil should be looked at carefully.
Tissue sampling is a common tool that can provide meaningful data, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle to consider. Complementing tissue sampling with soil test results provides a comprehensive look at how nutrients are both available to and being used by the plant.
The status of soil fertility levels is an indicator of the sustainability of farming. Every five years, the staff of IPNI and cooperating private and public laboratories across the United States and Canada summarize soil test levels for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) as well as pH to get an inventory of soil fertility levels across North America.
Both Kim Drackett and Randy Bales describe 1,850-acre Fairholme Farms as “a typical eastern Corn Belt operation,” but their management approach is, and long has been, anything but typical.