If you think about it, soil is much like the human body. Nutrients for the soil, which are necessary for plant health, come from fertilizer and other inputs. Nutrients for our bodies come from the food that we eat. Both our bodies and the soil need nutrients like potassium, carbon, oxygen, phosphorus, and iron to be healthy. These nutrients, plus many more, are required in different amounts and at different times to achieve optimal health.
Surviving Trying Times in Agriculture
I am a product of the 1980s. I grew up in the rather mild agricultural times of the 70s. 1980 arrived, and things in the ag world turned upside down.
One of the questions I have been asked most often in recent years in regards to soil and plant health concerns the use of fungicides. The other day a client asked, “Do fungicides work?” When I answered in the affirmative, he asked, “Does using them make money?” The answer: Maybe. Utilizing fungicides to make more money for your crop is not a sure bet. There are so many variables to consider that there is no one correct answer. In this encounter with my client, he described to me his experience in 2015, when the fungicides he used merely paid for themselves. Well, that’s not why we are in this game.
Topics: Soil Health
Fertilizer can be one of your largest per-acre expenses. Too many operations make fertilizer decisions based on four-year-old data or crop removal assumptions. Making assumptions is fine when it’s the only thing you can do. But in fertilizer decisions, there is an easy solution to having accurate, timely information, and that is pulling soil samples on an annual basis.
One of the most recent buzz phrases going around agriculture is the term “soil health.” Many involved in agriculture, from input suppliers and equipment companies to media and educators, soil health, has become the new “cu degras” or the pinnacle of accomplishment for agriculture to now consider. Almost appearing as a new discovery, there is much more focus being placed on soil health as the new key to unlocking the power of the soil. However, the study and application of methods to improve soil health is nothing new. Some of the techniques used in enhancing soil health have improved, but the idea is still the same.
Throughout the history of the agricultural studies, there has been an emphasis on applying the same scientific methods that are also used in other industries. There have been many successes, but also many failures along the way. Not all scientific applications apply in agriculture due to the earth’s ever changing landscape; it’s a living system after all.
Soil science and specifically soil sampling are one of those areas of agriculture. Many times it makes you scratch your head and wonder, “what the heck happened?” Just when soil scientists feel they have a good grasp on a given action and expectation, something changes. This is what causes the expected results to differ from what was expected.
For many decades soil sampling for agriculture has been considered an approved practice. With the vast expanse of where crops are grown in the world, different methods have been developed. These methods have been developed through research primarily conducted at universities. One method is called the grid method.
When soil sampling is combined with zone sampling techniques, you are presented with delineating areas of difference from each other before the sampling process. Also known as “Smart Sampling,” the individual developing the zones requires a great deal of training in order to understand where soils change. Whether the change is soil type, topography, drainage, past farming practices, the direction of applications, and any other criteria that may be pertinent to the needs of the grower.
One of the most under serviced occupations in agriculture around the world is the career of the independent agronomic consultant. In the United States, it has been documented that there are less than 2000 independent consultants providing services independently from the sale of products or connected to an input provider.