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27.02.2013 16:12 Age: 6 yrs
By: Troy LaForge, Rack Petroleum, P. Ag. CCA

Aim for Long Term Gain

Building a plan that will build your soil’s productivity results in long term benefits so that you can achieve your Ultimate Yield.

Successful crop nutrition planning provides numerous benefits on the farm. A successful nutrition plan is built not only on annual nutrient use, but also on short and long term production goals. Such goals may be to improve disease tolerance, yield performance and/or grain quality. All soil parameters (not just nitrogen) are important in determining your fertility program and rotation strategy including organic matter, phosphate, potassium, and micronutrients. Balanced soil components work together to improve the quality, quantity and sustainability of crop production. Proper soil testing, analysis and recommendations by trained agronomists will give the producer ability to build successful plans. This will benefit both the short and long term productivity of their business.

Among its many benefits organic matter is responsible for nutrient cycling, water holding capacity and reducing draft requirements of soil engaging equipment. Improving organic matter relies on two key points: carbon content and root mass. Different types of crop residue have varying levels of carbon and as a general rule cereal stubble has more than oilseed stubble which has more than pulse stubble. The amount of root matter differs between crops as well. For example, barley has many more roots per volume of soil versus lentils. Keeping these two points in mind, when planning a crop rotation for organic matter increase it is important to use a greater proportion of higher carbon containing crops residues with larger root masses.

High yielding crop production requires readily available phosphorous. As yield goals have increased with improved farming practices and crop genetics so have the needs for phosphorous. For example, Canola yield goals in the last ten years have increased an average of 10 – 20 bu/ac. Canola removes approximately .9 pounds of phosphorus per bushel produced; which equates to an additional requirement of 10 – 20 pounds of phosphorous per acre. If a farm business has not increased the rate of phosphorous application in the last ten years to accommodate the removal levels, the full yield potential of the newer genetics may not be met. It is critical that phosphorous levels be at least maintained and in many circumstances improved in order to utilize the yield potential of today’s genetics and farming practices.

Potassium and micronutrients are often forgotten in nutrient planning. Many crops use approximately 80 % as much potassium as they do nitrogen. As our rotations have changed to include more oilseeds and pulses so have the removal levels of this key element. Western Canada was initially blessed with many potassium rich soils but with the change in rotation has come an increasing need for potassium. A bushel of wheat removes .34 lbs of potassium, a bushel of canola removes .46 lbs of potassium and a bushel of lentils removes 1.1 lbs of potassium. Much like phosphorous the needs have crept up but applications have not. The micronutrients of the soil (mainly Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Iron and Boron) are much the same picture in that needs have increased and applications have not. Micronutrients generally cause the plant to function more efficiently and if left unchecked yields tend to flatten out or fall.

Long term nutrition planning considers all aspects of soil components. Building a plan that will build your soil’s productivity results in long term benefits so that you can achieve your Ultimate Yield. This winter, spend time building a nutrient plan with one of Rack’s agronomists and look at building for this year and future years’ productivity.