ProfitProAG Farm Report
August 2016

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July 21, 2016

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Crop Management News

Planning a Fall Fertility Program Starts Now!

by David Widman and Dennis Klockenga, ProfitProAG Consultants

Although it’s midsummer and hot, now is the time to plan a soil fertility program for fall.

A complete soil test is needed to determine current soil nutrient levels. Base saturation levels need to be checked to ensure that Ca is 70 percent, Mg is 10-15 percent, K is five percent and Na is less than one percent. Hydrogen should be 10 percent and is needed to replace nutrients removed from the clay colloid or organic matter for the growing crop. If the base saturation levels are too low or high, it needs to be addressed so the soil is more balanced and functional. Next, check trace nutrient levels as these play a large role in crop production. Trace minerals are necessary for many enzymatic functions that take place in growing plants. They are also the key to higher test weight and nutritionally dense crops.

The level of the organic matter in the soil needs to be high enough to support the soil biology and provide nutrients for the planned crop. To have a highly functional soil, organic matter should be at five percent or higher. Organic matter is the home and food source for the soil biology, which is the most important part as it provides the crop with all required nutrients.

Depending on the starting point, changing the soil profile takes from one to five years. The focus needs to start with soil health, biology and organic matter. Bringing the soil nutrients into balance without addressing organic matter and biology levels is like having a tractor fueled up, ready to go and no key to start the engine. Soil biology is dependent on organic matter as this is their home and food source. The organic matter is broken down by fungal groups, which provide nutrients to plants and food to other biology in the soil. It needs to be replaced continually to maintain the organic level. Cover crops provide organic matter mostly from their root mass as two-thirds of the plant is below ground level. A growing root in the soil provides the soil biology sugars for food in addition to building soil structure. Keeping microbes fed and alive is a key to healthy soil.

Planning a soil fertility program now, saves time and reduces stress load during harvest.

To develop a tailored fall fertility program contact one of ProfitPro Ag’s crop management consultants.

 

Cover Crops: Creating a Plan for Success

by Bryan Parr, ProfitProAG Consultant

Cover crops have become one of the fastest growing sectors in the seed industry over the past several years, and there are good reasons for this growth. When asked in a recent survey by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) what the most valuable benefits were for using cover crops, the number one benefit listed was: increased overall soil health.

It was followed by:

·   reduced soil compaction

·   controls weeds

·   reduced soil erosion

·   increased soil organic matter

While there are many more benefits to using cover crops, there are challenges as well. In the same survey, farmers were also asked to list the most challenging aspects of using cover crops in their cropping systems.

The top five answers were:

·   no measurable economic return

·   seeding the right species for individual operations

·   time/labor required for planting and managing cover crops

·   cover crop seed cost

·   establishment

Regardless of the many challenges that come with implementing a cropping system that includes cover crops, most farmers indicate that the benefits more than out-weigh the challenges.

Knowing the top five most challenging aspects of cover cropping, how can a producer eliminate or reduce these challenges? The following 10 questions can help producers determine the why, where, when and how to include cover crops into their current cropping system.

The questions are listed in the order of importance since it is important to take a systematic approach to selecting the right seed for an individual operation. By doing so, the challenges are reduced and will provide the best opportunity for successfully adding a cover crop in a crop rotation.

1. What is the ultimate goal? Build organic matter, produce nitrogen to reduce fertilizer costs, suppress weeds, etc.? This is the first and most important question that needs to be answered. Without answering this question accurately, a producer risks being unhappy with the results.

Once a goal has been established, the next series of questions can be answered.

2. What season(s) are necessary to best establish the species of cover crops needed to reach these goals?

3. Is the plan to seed cover crops for the whole farm or certain acres/fields?

4. Can this cover crop be included in the current rotation or do adjustments need to be made?

5. Can the chosen cover crop be seeded with another crop in the rotation or does it need to be seeded independently?

6. Can it be utilized for a cover crop as a forage, grain or pasture for additional income?

7. Determine how to terminate—winterkill, herbicide, no-till crimping, etc.

8. Can a diverse mixture of species be included or will a single species accomplish the goal?

9. What are the fertility and moisture requirements of the selected cover crop?

10. Where’s the best place to get seed and when should it be ordered?

When these questions are answered, a better picture will emerge of the why, how, when and where to include cover crops in a crop rotation.

Throughout the growing season cover crops can be seeded:

·   after a small grain or early season crop

·   during aerial seeding at the end of August into corn or soybeans

·   during early fall after harvest

·   before or after livestock manure application or strip tilling

ProfitPro AG’s crop consultants can provide the expertise for the cover crop planning process. The company carries a complete line of cover crop seed and mixes, which includes a custom blend of any requested cover crop seed mixes including the recommended biological seed coating ProfitCoat PB blended with the mix, which helps assure seedling establishment and vigor.

Remember, cover crops help balance soils, improve nutrient retention and improve soil biology and health. Better soil health leads to increased profitability and produces value-added, nutrient-dense crops.

 

 

 


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