Crop Rotations – Long term Fertility Plans

Organic Crop Rotations require Long term Fertility Plans

Organic cropping systems are designed with the goal of maintaining nutrients in organic matter reservoirs and in bioavailable forms over the cropping cycle through a holistic approach. Organic growers starting out or newer agronomic advisors can gain a better understanding of fertility planning and understanding of how crop rotation effects soil fertility in this SARE article:
In planning organic crop fertility, in addition to looking at removal and input each season and over the crop cycle, it is necessary to know what the soil reserves are, to create a fertility plan to feed, build ,maintain, monitor the soil  nutrient status.

Practical Measures of Soil Health, How Can Crop Advisors Use the Data?


Soil health is the foundation of any farm. Physical, biological and chemical soil properties all interact in influencing soil health, so measuring soil health is never related to a single measure. There’s a rapidly growing list of tests that many soil test labs now offer.  However, the question remains, which test(s) do you need, and how to use the results. A recent webinar Practical Measures of Soil Health, sponsored by Walton Family foundation presented current understanding of available measures and the complexities of measuring soil health. Several key points in the webinar

  • Microbial species are strongly influenced by physical, biological and chemical properties. The same soil in neighboring fields can have vastly different microbial communities.
  • Respiration from measures like Haney or Cornell test are direct measure of microbial activity, and are related to soil organic carbon [...]
Higher Yields Driving Nutrient Removal Budgets Since 1990, canola yields have increased by 1.38 bu./ac./yr., corn yields by 1.8 bu./ac/yr. and soybeans by more than 0.45 bu./ac./yr. Producers in southern Alberta are reporting their highest canola average yields, as are Ontario soybean growers. Agronomists and the International Plant Institute (IPNI) have warned about seeing a steady decline in soil test nutrients, including phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and sulphur. A number of media articles recently have centered around whether farmers are adjusting their fertility plans to current realities of crop removal and declining soil test levels. The Farmtario article 'High Yields Lead to greater Nutrient Removal’ makes a key point that in years of high yields, adjusting fertilizing plans to the 5-year average may not be enough. ( ).  Our view is that growers can be surprised by the high removal rates associated with big yields

Promoting Your Precision Sampling Services

Quality crop fertility recommendations start in the field with collecting quality soil samples. Getting customers to value your precision soil sampling service can be a challenge in a world when ‘quick and cheap’ drives ‘value’. Crop input manufacturers educate & demonstrate the value of a new technology through field trials.  The same approach can be taken with precision soil sampling by conducting a soil sampling field trial/research project to demonstrate the value of accurate, precision soil sampling.  The project could serve to as good topic for summer field days, winter meetings and in training students/staff.
Project ideas:

  • Effect of soil consistent sampling depth: Comparing samples of standard soil depth 0-6” to 0-5”, 0-8”, etc. Our experience has shown how even a 1-inch difference can affect results
  • Value of Site-specific sampling: Sample in a specific area (per sample) you can go [...]

Can Soil Health Testing be Used for Making Fertilizer Rec’s?

The Haney test, designed to evaluate soil health indicators like soil respiration, water-soluble carbon and organic nitrogen was evaluated recently by University of Minnesota for generating corn fertilizer recommendations. Read the report here:

Which Nitrogen Rate Prediction Tool is best for Corn?

The Economically Optimum Corn Nitrogen Rate (EONR) is a moving target, every season is a little or lot different and growers are left at doing an ‘educated guess’ at the most profitable rate. A researcher told me recently in reviewing 40 years of N rate research trials, the locally accepted PSNT recommendation could easily be off by +/- 30 lb N/ac in any one year. An article that appeared in Jan/Feb issue of Agronomy Journal shows that some Nitrogen prediction tools are getting closer to the mark. Researchers evaluated eleven Nitrogen fertilizer recommendation tools over 3 year period & 8 midwest US states for their ability to accurately estimate the EONR. None of the tools were able to recommend N within +/- 27 lbs. N of EONR for more than 50% of sites. Two of the most [...]

Getting the message out on Soil Sampling

How is it that with the rapid adoption of new technologies on the farm for tracking everything and everyone, and sophisticated smart data collection, that soil testing, one of the most fundamental principles of good agronomy is still lagging in adoption in some farming areas?  Farmers know that it is something that should be done regularly, but too often gets pushed down the to-do list. Great advancements in testing tools (eg. Wintex, electric conductivity) and lab testing methodologies have made it easier, more precise and with more detailed information.  This blog came to mind when, not for the first time a farmer recently asked me about getting a soil health test, even though they could not remember the last time they had a soil tested for nutrients. Gosh!; have I/we really done that poor a job in communicating [...]

Midwest Cover Crop Decision Tool
Midwestern states and Ontario are included, but we need growers and industry in other areas to push more provinces to join and contribute to make it a resource for everyone.

Great tool; regionally specific: @CoverCropsMCCC

When Does Post Emergent N in Spring Wheat work ?

Historically, split applying N in wheat has not resulted in higher yields. However, some growers intentionally may delay applying part of their nitrogen until they have better idea of yield potential or as way to boost protein. Read more in  this SaskWheat study :

Studies Question Benefit of Late split N in Corn

Results from a multi-state US split N study suggest that in only 24% of sites there was a benefit to split N. Ontario field trials indicated similar results. The greatest potential benefit was seen on soils more prone to N loss (sands & heavy clays). Read the full report from Ontario Grain Farmer:
A multispectral red-edge or NDVI image at 8-12 leaf corn can help decide if a late N application is needed & create N management zones for applicatio

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