Crop Management News
Complete Soil Test Critical to Balance Soils
by Dennis Klockenga, ProfitProAG Crop Management Consultant
ProfitProAG receives many soil tests, and most are incomplete. For a thorough
soil analysis, a full and complete soil test is needed. To compare, one doesn’t go to a doctor for a physical and only get their blood pressure checked, so why only test for a few nutrients?
So what does a complete soil test entail? The normal analysis includes N, P, K, OM and pH. In addition, Ca, Mg, S, Na, base saturation, CEC and micronutrients needs to be analyzed. Most people understand why N, P, K, pH and OM are important, but why are all of these additional components important? The Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) indicates the number of cations and positively charged elements that the soil can hold. The CEC is based on the amount of clay and organic matter in the soil; the higher the soil’s clay content and organic matter, the higher the CEC. Both clay and organic matter have strong negative charges and since opposite charges attract, the anions or negative charges will attract the positive charges or cations. This reserve of cations can be absorbed by the plant. So if the CEC is known, it specifies how many cations the soil can hold.
Sand, for instance, has a lower holding capacity because it has larger particles than clay or silt. In contrast, if basketballs represented sand, and golf balls represented clay,
it is readily apparent there would be more golf balls in a basket than basketballs due to the size difference. The CEC is very important in determining soil type.
Base saturation is the amount of base cations that are held onto the soil particle. The cations Mg2+, Ca2+, K+, and Na+ are calculated and recorded in a percentage. The higher the charge such as Mg and Ca, the more affinity they have to attach to the soil particle.
In general, to have a somewhat balanced soil, it is desirable to see the Ca at 70 – 75 percent, Mg at 15 – 20 percent, K at around 5 percent and Na < 1 percent. If a soil has high Mg at 25 percent or higher, the soil is sticky, can compact easily and typically has a lot of clay. Calcium and magnesium are like sand and clay. Calcium is a larger particle then magnesium. Calcium allows more pore space for water movement and oxygen exchange between the particles, unlike magnesium, which is a small particle and doesn’t allow pore space. The key is a balance of Ca and Mg to provide enough pore space for water and air movement for the soil and the plant.
Another element drastically neglected in agriculture is sulfur. A corn plant requires 0.3 to 0.5 lbs of S per bushel of corn produced. For 200 bu/A corn, that equates to 60 to 100 lbs of S/A. To determine the amount of S per acre, take the soil test level which is expressed in ppm and multiply it by two to convert it to pounds per acre. That number is then subtracted from the 60 to 100 lbs/A, which gives the amount required to supply maximize yield. Fields all over the Midwest are showing sulfur deficiency in corn, which may be misdiagnosed as nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen deficiency and sulfur deficiency symptoms are very similar in corn. Both show a yellowing of the leaves, but the yellowing of the leaves is only on the top leaves with sulfur, whereas nitrogen deficiency is only on the bottom leaves. Nitrogen can move throughout the plant while sulfur cannot; consequently sulfur deficiency will show on the top part of the plant. Additionally, sulfur can help move magnesium and sodium down into the lower soil profile, which allows calcium to increase and create a soil that has more pore space for water and air movement. There are three ways to apply sulfur in a dry form: ammonium sulfate, elemental sulfur and gypsum. In a liquid form, there are two ways: ammonium thiosulfate and potassium thiosulfate. Another important part of sulfur is that it is required by the soil biology to be healthy. Sulfur is required for both immunity and cell structure and when the level is deficient, the soil biology will not be able to function at the level for maximum yields.
Although needed in small amounts, micronutrients are critical for plant growth and development as well as the plant’s immune system. Without them, plants are unable to achieve maximum yield and quality. While N, P and K may be the engine that drives the plant, they won’t go far without the key to start that engine and micronutrients function as that key. They also play a critical role in enzyme functions throughout the plant and the soil. Thousands of enzymes wouldn’t be possible without micronutrients to stimulate them. For instance, molybdenum is critical in forming nitrogenase enzymes, which is needed for nitrogen fixation. Without “moly,” nitrogen wouldn’t convert into a plant- available form.
ProfitProAG can tailor individual plans for farm operations to help balance soils. Without balance, issues like insects and diseases or environmental stresses such as too much water or not enough, may arise. A well balanced, fertile soil will consistently outperform an out of balanced one. It starts with a complete soil test as well as the right person to interpret it and provide guidance.
Livestock & Manure Management News
Manure Safety and Foaming
by Chris Chodur, ProfitProAG Manure Management Consultant
As cooler weather approaches, manure pit pumping and application is around the corner. One safety concern is foaming. Manure foaming occurs primarily in hog facilities and, most commonly, in the Midwestern states and Canada. The foam can be very dangerous and lethal to both pigs and workers around the manure pits. Foam is described as a mass of gas bubbles on the surface of a liquid. However, rather than being crusty or fluffy, foaming manure has a thick, mucous consistency. In the manure pits, the bubbles do not burst, but rather cling together, and generally, under the foam, the manure is all liquid.
A definitive answer is yet to be found as to a cause or a combination of causes. Possible triggers may include a high content of manure solids that result from water conservation practices; cool weather patterns; reduced antibiotic use; feeding or diet adjustments; changes in DDG’s; changes in corn including genetic modifications; moldy and/or lightweight corn; changes in the type or quantity of fat fed to animals; and the presence of a population of methanogen microbes.
Foam in manure pits is linked to hog suffocation as well as incidents of barn fires and explosions. Methane and hydrogen sulfide gases are produced during the anaerobic breakdown of manure. There are no proven ways to prevent or predict manure foaming. Currently the focus remains on treating the symptoms
Proper ventilation of the barn during pump-out is critical. Air flow has to come from the top down through the barn over the pigs and out the locked on pit fans. Running the pit fans for an extra 24 to 48 hours after pump-out is completed allows any remaining trapped toxic gases to escape out the pit fan.
It is never advisable go into a manure pit of any kind!
Check Nutrient Levels
Prior to pump-out, a sample should be collected and tested for nutrients. This test should have pH, EC, and list the levels of N, P, K, S, Zn, Cu, Fe, Mn and B so the most efficient amount can be applied to crop fields. Spreading the manure over more acres will save money on fertility programs as the amount of fertilizer needed for a crop will
ProfitProAG sells a product called Manure Master FoamAway™ as part of their Manure Management product line. FoamAway works fast and effectively on knocking down foam and provides a six to eight week residual. It is available in a dry formulation, is easy to apply and reduces the hazard potentials with foaming pits.
Contact a ProfitProAG representative to order Manure Master Foam Away.
The Benefits of Coupling ProfitProAG’s Grower Financing
and Early Order Cash Discount Program (EOCDP)
ProfitProAG offers competitive grower input and operational financing and an EOCDP. If a grower takes advantage of the EOCDP, it helps offset the grower
financing cost. (Refer to grower financing information below.)
Unsecured and Secured Financing Available for 2016
Contact David Widman (who has over 30 years of bank lending experience, mostly in agriculture, and grew up on a family farm) about either input or operational financing for 2016 from AgriSpan. With qualified credit, an UNSECURED loan can range from $10,000.00 to $250,000.00; secured financing limit based on your operation. Call 507-640-1095 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to apply.