Showing posts from March, 2024

Recognizing Good Soil Health

  Dr. Alan Franzluebbers, North Carolina Extension has a YouTube video showing farmers how to look for healthy soils and then improve it. There are several obvious soil health indicators like looking for earthworms, earthworm burrows, and their middens. Also, remove surface residue and look for white spiderweb like matts which are beneficial fungi. Crop fields with small mushrooms growing are a good sign because those are beneficial fungi just spreading their spores. However, the hardest to see are the soil bacteria which can be over 1 billion per teaspoon of soil. Soil Biology has been understudied and is extremely important.  Soil biology can be measured by looking at the soil biological activity, measuring the total biomass of living organisms, and by looking at the diversity of these organisms. The biology has four main functions: decomposers of crop residue, cycling of water and nutrients, controlling gasses like carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and oxygen for root r

Optimize Yield by Soil Testing

  Conservation Tillage & Technology Conference (CTTC) last week had several good speakers. Clint Nester, Nester Ag, consults on about 200,000 acres in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana since 1992. All that data drives their soil test recommendations. They start by soil testing, determine nutrient rates, variable apply nutrients and then evaluate crop yields. They follow the 4R’s (Right Source of fertilizer, Right Rate, Right Place, and Right Time). By following the fundamentals, they strive for optimal yields with the highest profit margin while protecting the environment (improve water quality).  Soil testing can be done many ways. They emphasize getting core samples that are representative. Some farmers and retailers sample by soil type, 2.5-acre grids, or zones. Nester’s use zone soil sampling, taking numerous representative soil samples down to 6.67 inches. Zones allow for good N-P-K soil recommendations, help determine pH and lime levels, starter fertilizer rates, side-

Maximizing Wheat Yield

  Farmers are striving to optimize wheat yields with lower grain prices expected. High yields are dependent upon maximizing wheat grain kernels per foot and increasing grain weight. High yields come from achieving the correct leaf and shoot numbers, maintaining a green leaf canopy through grain fill, increasing grain numbers/head, and increasing grain size. Good fertility increases yields by getting adequate amounts of all essential macro- and micronutrients.  Wheat also grows best when there is adequate soil moisture to develop a well-branched root system. If wheat has enough water during the early growing season, it will form the necessary roots. A good root system is critical for obtaining adequate and balanced crop nutrients. Adequate drainage, both surface and subsurface, helps improve wheat yields.  Nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) are the nutrients required in the highest quantity for maintaining high wheat yields. Wheat utilizes 60% more potassium than nitrogen. For

Understanding Biologicals

Farmers are experimenting with biological to enhance crop performance. Dr. Connor Sible,University of Illinois  estimated that by 2032, farmers will spend $32 billion/year on biological products. Currently, biologicals enhanced seed growth (25%), fertility (25%), pest management (25% on insect, disease, weed control) and another 25% are specialty products. What are biologicals? Many are plant growth regulators or hormones. Bio-stimulates are not alive but come from living organisms and are easier to manage and control. Third are living beneficial microbes which are more difficult to manage and control. Living organisms are affected by moisture, temperature, and exposure to other environmental conditions (sunlight, oxygen levels, etc.). Dr. Sible breaks down biologicals into 8 major groups. Starting with living microbes, he lists nitrogen (N) fixing bacteria, phosphorus (P) solubilizing bacteria, residue decomposers (bacteria and fungi), and beneficial fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizae fung