Showing posts from October, 2021

Biological Buffering of Nitrogen

  As crop prices increase, generally fertilizer prices increase as well. Farmers who are booking nitrogen (N) for next year are paying at least twice as much. N use efficiency is critical as farmers try to cut back on N usage while attempting to maintain crop yields. Building soil organic matter (SOM) and improving soil health improves N use efficiency. Soil health and regenerative farming systems develop healthy soils with robust microbial communities that recycle soil nutrients efficiently to meet a crop’s nutritional requirements. In healthy systems, photosynthesis is maximized which produces large volumes of soil carbon as a food source for the soil biology. The soil biology then recycles those soil nutrients to the plant as plant available nutrients. Keeping soils high in SOM or carbon are a key factor in buffering N and keeping it plant available (Larry Phelan). Inorganic N fertilizers are usually applied as salts which can be damaging to plants. “Inorganic” means it does not con

Cover Crop Dividends

Farmers had several state and national opportunities to receive payments or premiums from planting cover crops. Some deadlines are past, others have been extended. Farmers may want to review some of these programs and look at the current benefits from planting cover crops yet this fall. Ohio H20 Program: Due to a late harvest and adverse weather conditions, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) extended the 2021 H2Ohio Program deadline for planting overwintering cover crops to November 1st , 2021. Theses cover crops include small grains and manure incorporation. H2Ohio producers enrolled in any of the 24-county Ohio area will have until November 1, 2021 to plant their overwintering cover crops and complete all manure incorporation requirements. ODA recommends to adjust seeding rates to reduce to the risk of planting failure. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A, seeding rates should be increased by 20% when planting cover crops this late in the s

Plant Health Pyramid

  Soil health and plant health are closely related. Most pest issues are due to inadequate plant nutrition and poor plant health. Most weeds thrive where at least one plant nutrient is lacking. Healthy plants have adequate nutrients levels to repel insects and disease organisms. Healthy soils promote healthy plants by providing adequate plant nutrition for plants to thrive. The first step to improving plant health is producing carbohydrates which are the building blocks for proteins. About 50% of a plant’s carbohydrates are allocated to above ground growth and 50% to root growth. Plants convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars using sunlight as the energy source in photosynthesis. Plants allocates sugar to the roots to produce root exudates to feed the soil microbes which make soil nutrients plant available for building proteins. In the second step, the plants are looking for nitrogen to form amino acids, peptides, and proteins. Here is where plant health often starts to decline. T

Transitioning to Soil Health

  Farmers in a conventional tilled corn-soybean rotation often ask how they can improve soil health. It is not easy but also not impossible. Improving soil health starts with evaluating your soil and then fixing those problems. Fall is an excellent time to evaluate your current soil health and to start making management changes for next year. First, evaluate your soil structure. Take a shovel and look for hard pans and soil that does not crumble easily. Dig down at least 12-15 inches. Often at least 2-3 layers of hard dense soil may be visible. Between 6-8 inches, the old plow layer is almost always found; either visually, by probing the soil with a steel rod, or by breaking soil apart. Tillage tools often smear wet soil and create these dense soil layers which restrict roots, water movement, gas exchange, and mineral nutrition. Second, evaluate your drainage, both surface and subsurface. On the surface, look for areas that had or has ponding water, surface crusting, and a lack of surf