Agronomic Consulting: Getting the Entire Picture.
Soil Sampling, Mapping and Testing.
Crop and Field Scouting.
Manure, Fertilizer, Water and Lime Testing.
In-Field Evaluation (test plots and research).
There are 16 elements necessary for plant growth. (Yes, there are now 17 in some circles but we will stick with 16 for now!) There are at least twice as many agronomic factors that contribute to the growth and yield of plants in agriculture. Factors such as planting date, temperature, sunlight, rainfall, insect pressure, weed pressure and soil properties are but just a few to name off the top of our heads. But agrarians spend the bulk of their time on nutrients because we purchase them as inputs.
To achieve maximum yield there must be the proper amount of all nutrients in the soil at the correct balance to allow the plant to work at full capacity and provide proper plant balance. This in turn will deliver healthier and more productive plants that will fight off disease and adverse conditions and lead to increased performance. The beginning step in soil balance is examining the soil’s nutrient holding capabilities.
Comprehensive soil sampling, or soil testing, is the first step in obtaining a picture of your soils nutrient holding capacity. The preferred method of sample collection is to use factors that would affect nutrient values including: soil type, elevation, past farming practices, and yield monitor data, when available. When these factors are not known or are not available the alternative method of grid sampling can be used. Sample locations are recorded with GPS to ensure accurate repeatable sampling in subsequent years. Analysis is done for all of the major and minor elements affecting crop production.
Obtaining soil balance is the single most important factor in regard to soil fertility. This relies on first determining the soils Total Exchange Capacity or Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC). The CEC is determined by taking an inventory of all the cations in the soil. When a grower is harvesting his crop, he can see that clay hills and flat slit loam areas do not produce the same yields. The difference between these areas can be measured by their CEC. When these areas have a significant difference in CEC they must be treated differently when applying fertilizer. The higher producing soils will generally have higher CEC and should require more fertilizer to produce at optimum. Your poorer soils will have lower CEC and will require less fertilizer to produce at their optimum. Manage fertilizer by looking at CEC and looking at all nutrients, not just pH, P and K.
Recommendations are provided on whole field treatments, or site specific variable rate (VR) treatments, based on the needs of the field and the customer after consultation. Shape file maps are provided for clients who have GPS (Global Positioning System) variable rate application capability or whose dealer-applicator can perform VR with their trucks or equipment. In addition, the grower gets a summary sheet showing total fertilizer needs by field and farm to help aid in fertilizer purchasing decisions.
When areas in a field are not performing as expected or there are symptoms of stress, insects or disease, then additional, more specific, soil and tissue sampling can be done as well as Crop Scouting, to determine the severity of the problem. The additional analytical data, coupled with observation, will help determine the cause of the problem and the best way to alleviate it. Other diagnostic tools can be used and incorporated into the problem solving process to help determine what may or may not be happening in the field or area of the field. Sometimes, while we can find the problem and identify it, there may not be a cost effective cure. Other times we find that while there is a cosmetic issue, there is really no economic damage or loss.
This is why regular Crop Scouting is so important. Field visits on a regular basis is the best way to know what is happening in your fields agronomically. Crop Scouting allows a producer to see changes from one visit to another as well as to begin to anticipate weed or insect problems before they reach beyond economic thresholds. Scouting also allows the grower to be in touch with their crops in real time and not relying on windshield observations or coffee shop gossip to determine what threats there are to your crop. We can help you set up a scouting program that will fit your needs.