Farmers with years of experience will frequently look over a field and make an off-the-cuff assessment on crop condition and production value. But what they see above the surface at that moment in time may not be a true indication of what is going on below the surface and the impact that could have down the road. Maintaining soil fertility is vital for profitable crop production, but new research is showing that overall soil health can help reap even more benefits. However, soil health is often overlooked and soil nutrient deficiencies can compromise yield and profits.
In a long-term base fertility trial conducted by the University of Wisconsin, soil test levels for potassium (K) were very low in a historically under fertilized field. Very large yield increases (50-75% soybean, 150-560% corn) were observed with various K applications. It’s very common that local fields have soil test values that fall below optimal target ranges, however, the addition of nutrients according to soil test results has a very high probability of a positive return on investment.
In addition to these results some other key soil health observations were recorded; the field was noted as having much greater residue cover in plots that received adequate potash applications over time compared to where no K was applied. Why is this important? Residue cover protects the soil surface from crusting and reduces the potential for soil erosion. Field documentation in this study showed that plots with poor K fertility had little residue cover, even though the previous crop was grain corn.
Plots with adequate K fertility had more residue cover which protects the soil particles from detaching/erosion and the formation of surface crusts. Beneficial residue cover allows for greater water infiltration, reduces erosion, and also increases infiltration of surface-applied liquid manure.
Maintaining soil fertility and keeping soil in the field are key components of healthy soils. This trial demonstrates that shorting fertilizer with nutrients at “very low” and “low” levels limits yield potential and profitability of the entire crop. In many cases, the most important dollar spent on a given acre is the fertilizer.
Some growers have been proactive and have begun to combat the nutrient drain using straight rate broadcast corrective applications. Although this is generally a good idea, fields that are not consistently deficient are not receiving the appropriate amount of product each part of a field requires. This reduces efficiency of dollars invested and can lead to ongoing compromises in yield. To accurately apply fertilizer a good soil sampling program is necessary!
A key area of focus for Northside involves our grid soil sampling program. Over the past several years we’ve produced more grain and more forage than ever before. The traditional “starter” or other fertilizer applications that were traditionally applied no longer supplement the nutrients removed in annual production. In Central Wisconsin a downward trend in nutrient values for all crops has been observed. Especially K, a key and often yield-limiting, nutrient.
At Northside, we can improve nutrient levels using a more balanced approach. If a field has areas with adequate or high soil test scores, fertilizer applications may be reduced or eliminated while areas with lower fertility can receive a higher allocation of nutrients — and your resources. This allows for a possible increase in yield potential, more efficient input expenditure and therefore, an increase the field’s profitability! That’s a win-win approach!
Starting from the ground up, Northside Elevator offers a customized approach and industry leading tools for a smarter, more efficient and profitable program for managing field nutrient levels. Some of the tools and processes we implement for assuring the exact nutrients required are the only ones getting applied include:
- GPS based grid soil sampling
- Dual product variable rate fertilizer applications
- Variable rate seed prescriptions
- Yield mapping ananlysis
- UAV (drone) flights
- Satellite imagery
This is your opportunity to utilize these technologies to maintain and grow profitability when margins are tight. Contact Northside Elevator to get started with grid soil sampling or any of the other precision products and services we offer!
Top Harvesting Tips In A Challenging 2019
During late 2018 and early 2019 weather wreaked havoc on timely harvesting and planting. This caused lengthy delays in planting of traditional crops, even to the extent that alternative crops have been considered due to the shortened growing season.
Regardless of crop, harvest and ensiling during 2019 could be extremely challenging. Concepts of Critical Control Points (CCP) for harvest in 2019 will be extremely important. Below are the most important CCPs for 2019.
CCP 1 — Safety
CCP 2 — Decision-Making
CCP 3 — Maturity
CCP 4 — Moisture (Dry Matter)
CCP 5 — TLOC: Theoretical Length Of Cut
CCP 6 — KPS: Kernel Procession Score
CCP 7 — Inoculate
CCP 8 — Packing
CCP 9 — Sealing
Consult with your Northside team to make the most of your harvest.
Grain Handling Safety
Grain handling is a high-hazard activity, where individuals can face serious injury and death. Keeping grain in proper condition is the first step in preventing entrapment in flowing grain because many grain entrapment’s have occurred when a person went into a bin to break apart moldy or crusted grains. Good bin management will help prevent moldy grains and spoilage.
If you have hauled out grain and the grain surface is at the same level, this is an indicator that there’s a grain bridge. A grain bridge will not support a person’s weight. You should see a funnel shape on the grain surface after grain has been removed. Use a pole to break up grain bridges from outside the bin. The pole should be attached to a rope tied to the outside of the bin. If you drop the pole, it can be retrieved using the rope and save you from entering the bin.
Enter a bin only if absolutely necessary. Instruct family members, especially children, and employees on the hazards of entering grain bins and dangers in flowing grain. Flowing grain is also a hazard with gravity wagons.
For more information on grain handling safety and what to do if you need to enter a bin or if a rescue is required please visit: Grain Handling and Storage. Safety doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. It just has to be done! Be safe and prepared this season to protect your life and lives of your family members and employees.