One of your most valuable assets is the soil in which your crops grow. Knowing what nutrients are available is key to growing higher-yielding crop. And with higher fertilizer prices hitting the expense side of the ledger extra hard this season, having accurate and current soil test is also key to profitability.
A survey of Canadian growers in 2019 in Fertilizer Canada found that 50.6% of growers producing higher yielding crops, soil test for nitrogen every year. That’s compared to 24.4 % of growers producing lower yields.
Peter Drucker, the famous business management consultant said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Drucker might have been thinking more profit and loss statements than soil test reports, but the wisdom proves true in the field just as much as the boardroom. One of the best ways to beef up your bottom line is to do regular soil tests.
Drought conditions reduce yields. That means that a larger amount of residual nutrients may be left in the soil than normal.
It’s especially important to soil test after “abnormal” years. A P&H crop advisor can arrange for soil tests and then help develop a fertility program for the next season based on your cropping plans and yield goals. A soil test from three years ago won’t give you the confidence necessary to reduce fertilizer applications in the spring after a drought year.
For fall soil sampling, it is recommended to take samples after temperatures have dropped, and soil temperature is below 5 degrees C.
Almost every farm has had a soil test done. But basing your decisions off out-dated soil test numbers is like trying to drive a truck down the highway by staring into the rear-view mirror. And with fertilizer prices continuing to climb, now would be a really good time to get a read on the current state of your soils.
A soil test isn’t just about gauging nitrogen levels. A soil test can provide other beneficial information such as soil acidity, sodium and soluble salts, organic matter, cation exchange capacity, and Ph.
Soil, made up of inorganic particles and organic matter, is a complicated system that can vary considerably in the way it behaves, even within a few meters of the same field.
A crop advisor can turn a lab-generated report into customized recommendations. That can be especially important in pinpointing the greatest limiting factor. Addressing that deficiency is often your biggest opportunity.
Growers regularly producing higher yields are also more likely to use a crop advisor to help interpret the results and translate data into a nutrient management plan.
The most valuable information from a soil test will likely come by measuring these five broad groups:
As growers and their nutrient advisors receive more information about these five areas, they will be able to make more informed fertility decisions.
In the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, the goal is to apply the right source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place.
Consider applying fertilizers in the fall to give you more time to complete your application and check one thing off the list before spring. Also, soil conditions may be less wet in the fall, reducing your risk of compaction during application.
Tips for fall fertilizer applications:
There are three forms of nitrogen loss:
A nitrogen stabilizer can increase your return on investment by protecting your nitrogen application from all three forms of nitrogen loss.
Use a nitrogen stabilizer in the fall so that your nitrogen is available to feed your crops once they are seeded the following spring. A nitrogen stabilizer also reduces the environmental impact of nitrogen loss due to leaching and denitrification.