Farmers understand that soil fertility is a key component of growing healthy and high yielding crops. While there is much debate on how we accomplish soil fertility and health, there are some general items that are helpful to remember.
1. Soil Test and Yield Map
b. Yield maps can help establish management zones to guide soil testing efforts. Yield also helps us see variability not only in space but also through time as each year’s weather and management has a different impact.
c. Yield maps are invaluable when trying to determine what limiting factors are capping yield potential.
2. Understand the basics of how a recommendation is built
a. There are a variety of methods to analyze soil. Having a basic knowledge of the method a particular lab uses to analyze the soil is important should you try to do any comparative studies from past or future tests, or from another lab.
b. You will quickly see there are many scientific opinions regarding fertility. Try not to get overwhelmed, rather focus on learning principles.
c. Some soil test reports will go into more detail than others. Familiarize yourself with reports from your local lab. Many farmers only look at the recommendation and not the actual test itself, which is not recommended.
d. Remember that fertility equations can involve many variables: crop, yield goal, previous crop removal, pH, etc.
3. Work with a trusted advisor to build a plan
a. A good recommendation is built using reliable information (Soil Test and/or Yield Maps), crop knowledge, economics, and is farmer-tailored.
b. A good recommendation is…. Wait for it… SIMPLE. Fertility is like investing money. We don’t invest money in financial products that we don’t understand. Our fertility programs should be the same way.
c. Review the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship
4. Implement your plan