Here at ForeFront Agronomy we work with Next Level Ag Labs out of Alpena, SD to analyze our soil and tissue samples. We have chosen this lab for their commitment to the highest standards as it relates to data quality and their willingness to provide resources that will help improve your soil and profitability.
WHY SOIL HEALTH?
When it comes to consulting, our main goal is simple. We strive to help our growers reduce input costs by utilizing existing infrastructure. There’s no better way to boost efficiency than by emphasizing the most rapidly growing segment of agriculture today – soil health. We stress the importance of improving the overall health of your soil because we believe it will provide your crop with more resilience in adverse growing conditions.
A Soil Health-Centric approach means the implementation of several techniques:
– Measure CO2 Release – used to estimate microbial activity in the soil
– Track nutrient levels from year to year to see how management decisions impact your soil
– Propose cover crop species that will best promote healthy soils and help prevent the over-application of nutrients that may enhance the problem.
There are many benefits to making Soil Health a priority:
– Reduce Input Costs: Ex. Use less fertilizer – fewer pesticides needed – improve soil structure
– Pollution Prevention – Soil organisms filter and detoxify chemicals and absorb nutrients.
– Improve Yield and Crop Quality
– Improve Water Drainage
– Minimize Fallow Periods
– Minimize Pesticide Use
– Reduce Tillage
IN-SEASON PLANT TISSUE AND SOIL SAMPLING GUIDELINES
When our team watches over your crop, we leave no stone unturned. Our comprehensive protocols ensure that you get the full view of how your crop is performing. This includes documenting and monitoring any changes to the soil’s characteristics throughout the year, a process that makes it easy to identify the limiting factors.
We choose two different soil zones in the field. The zones are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum (e.g. Hill vs. Swale), which means you can see all the variations throughout the field. Plant tissue and soil samples get pulled from these same spots during different crop stages. Having both sets of these test results is what brings everything together and allows us to see how the plant uptake is performing compared to the nutrients that are available in the soil.
Corn Nitrogen Management Plan Features:
- Collect Field Boundaries, crop, planting date, gal/min, GDUs or maturity, Yield.
- Work to reduce dependence of plant on Nitrate N and improve our NUE by matching fertilizer needs more with crop needs.
- With rising cost of fertilizer, it is important to give the plant exactly what it needs when it needs it. When we manage our fertility with an intensive in-season sampling program we can see increased nutrient use efficiency gains of 30%. Sampling coupled with an understanding of crop needs by growth stage and the ability to apply fertility through our irrigation systems give us the opportunity to raise more crop on fewer inputs meaning more profit per acre.
PRE PLANT SAMPLE
We make agreements with the growers on fields to be monitored. Before planting and soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F, we pull 10″ soil samples from two areas (5-6 cores each) of the field most representative of the rest of the field. These areas are marked or noted to their location so that we return to the same areas at each sampling. Samples are tested for NO3 and NH4. The reason for this early sampling is to see the field before corn is growing to pick two good areas and to get a baseline of nitrogen levels early to avoid surprises later. Reports are sent to growers along with recommendations after all sampling is complete. These reports includes the growers results with recommendations plus averages of all growers in the program so that each grower can see how he grades compared to the rest of the program.
4 LEAF SAMPLE
We take samples at the 4-leaf stage with the soil samples same as the pre plant, we also take whole plant tissue and test it for TN%, NO3 ppm, P%, S%, and K%. At this time, growers are usually called with the results and recommendations so decisions can be made as soon as possible. After all sampling is complete, a report is sent to growers with the same format and information as the pre plant report.
Tassel sampling is at pollination (a time when vegetative growth has stopped and reproductive growth is about to start). A soil sample and ear leaf sample are taken and the same tests conducted as on the 4-leaf sampling. Reporting is also handled the same way. The corn plant uses at least 1/3 of its N after this time, and we have found that saving 60 to 80 lbs. of N to be applied after pollination is very efficient. Our data set is now showing even greater responses to post-pollination fertilizer application. See our graphs.
The harvest sample is taken after black layer. A NO3 soil test and a NO3 test on an 8″ stalk segment taken 4-6 inches from the ground is all that is done at this last sampling. This sampling is like our “post-mortem” to tell us how good of a job we have done. After all the field data and yield data have been gathered, reports are sent to growers for review and to help them adjust their fertilizer programs for the next year.
CORN NITROGEN NEEDS:
- It takes 12 lbs of N to get from emergence to V4.
- V5-V12 uses 4lbs of N/day.
- 2 weeks prior to tassel we use 11lbs of N/day.
- 35% of our N needs happen after Tassel.
COTTON NITROGEN NEEDS:
- Cotton uses 50# of N/bale.
- 1#/day from emergence to first bloom.
- 4#/day from first bloom to peak bloom.