October 6th 2011
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag
For anyone trying to figure out what they should use for fertilizer in their fields, now is the time to be out in your field checking. Soil sampling in the fall allows for fertilizer program decisions to be made in a timely manner. With many producers, buying fertilizer in the fall has become a necessity because of pricing of the fertilizer. Knowing the right amount to apply is essential to insure that the best economic yields possible are attained.
Soil sampling provides a lot of information to producers. The type of soil test that is chosen will determine the information that you obtain. A basic soil testing program looks at the macro-nutrients in the soil plus pH and electro-conductivity. This information will give the producer the background information to deal with the nutrients that they are spending the most money on. It will show the producer what level of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulfur are left in the soil after growing this year's crop. From this, a producer can estimate what levels of macro-nutrients are required to grow next years crop.
The next level of soil testing adds micro-nutrients and organic matter as pieces in the puzzle that need to be put together to get maximum economic yield. In our area, the information on copper, zinc and boron are important for growing crops. These nutrients have been responsible for yield reductions in the area and a producer must be certain that there is no deficiency of these nutrients to attain maximum economic yield.
The next level of soil testing uses modeling to determine the levels of all the nutrients in the soil and attempts to put together a total program for all the nutrients required for the crop that is to be grown on a specific field. This type of soil testing is the most expensive method of soil testing, but provides the best information and deals with what is required on an individual field. Better levels of accuracy in soil testing generally produce better yield responses in the fall. This level of soil testing is the most expensive but provides the best results from an accuracy point of view.
Whatever level of soil testing that a producer chooses, it is important to that the results of the soil tests are interpreted by a qualified individual. For a proper recommendation to occur, it is essential that an advisor brings experience and training to the discussion. Having local expertise is important because local information can bring in experiences that are Unique to the area. In the Meadow Lake area, we have had many instances of copper deficiency. Knowing what the critical levels are as well as the locations where this is a problem will insure that the fertilizer dollar is spent in the right place. Also having qualified people preparing the recommendations will insure that the soil will be able to produce for the long term.
If you are interested in doing some soil testing, give me a call. I will attempt to get you started on the program that will work for your business.