Tips for Reducing Fertilizer Costs
Farmers are re-evaluating their fertilizer application due to high fertilizer prices. Farmers who regularly applied fertilizer may not need as much or any additional fertilizer if their soil tests are optimal; especially for lime, phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Most agricultural clay-based soils have around a ton of P and perhaps 40 tons of soil K.

Building Soil Carbon

Most of our agricultural soils are lacking adequate levels of organic matter and good soil health to obtain optimal yields. The lack of humic substances and healthy soil biology reduces the soil’s water holding capacity and the ability to release nutrients when the plants need them, leading to reduced crop quality and lower yields.

Reduced Roundup (Glyphosate) Availability

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup which is the number one weed killer (herbicide) worldwide. About 90% of major USA crops (corn, soybeans) use glyphosate to kill weeds. China is the biggest manufacturer of glyphosate, but due to supply shortages and higher fuel prices; glyphosate is in short supply and prices are at least 3-4X higher than normal.

Enhancing Crop Growth with Humic Compounds

Humic compounds are organic (carbon) compounds in soil organic matter that enhance plant growth. Humic compounds are composed of fulvic acids and humic acids (highly decomposed SOM) and include many different compounds.

Fulvic Acid: A Miracle Worker

My wife gave me a great Christmas present this year; a book entitled Organic Soil Conditioning by Dr. William Jackson (958 pages), full of facts that are beneficial to agriculture. This information may help farmers cope with higher fertilize prices.

Precious Resources: Soil, Water, and Air

As we celebrate the holidays and look forward to a new year, we have many precious natural resources in this country to appreciate. Our soils, water and air are second to none! We need to keep reminding ourselves in these turbulent times, how great a nation we are and how important our precious resources are to feeding the 7 billion plus people on this earth.

National Farm Bill Discussions

The 2023 National Farm Bill discussions are now beginning. With a new administration; climate change, water quality, and new air emission standards are expected to be a big part of the discussion.

Reducing Tar Spot Disease

Most farmers had a good corn harvest but corn tar spot (Phyllachora maydis) was an issue. Tar spot is a corn disease that came from Central America and seems to be spreading by wind into corn growing states.

Fall Tillage and Soil Compaction

Agricultural field practices seem to be like our national politics, very much divided. Maybe 25% more fields planted to cover crop due to H20 Ohio funds. On the other hand, there appears to be more vertical tillage, chisel plowing and plowing.

Optimizing Nitrogen Fertilizer Applications

Crop prices are high but fertilizer prices are rocketing even higher. Farmers are looking for ways to lower their fertilizer bill, especially on nitrogen (N). Almost all N is processed by soil microbes before being plant absorbed.

Value of Manure

Farmers are seeing fertilizer prices soar in 2021 and 2022. Extreme weather, plant shutdowns, sanctions, and rising fuel and energy costs, and high grain prices are driving fertilizer prices higher. Fertilizer prices are at their highest level in more than a decade.

Agricultural Microbiological Products

This of the time of year when farmers are considering options for buying seed, fertilizer, various pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) and other products for next year’s crop. Now farmers may want to consider buying agricultural microbiology products which require even more specialized knowledge.

Biological Buffering of Nitrogen

As crop prices increase, generally fertilizer prices increase as well. Farmers who are booking nitrogen (N) for next year are paying at least twice as much. N use efficiency is critical as farmers try to cut back on N usage while attempting to maintain crop yields.

Cover Crop Dividends

Farmers had several state and national opportunities to receive payments or premiums from planting cover crops. Some deadlines are past, others have been extended. Farmers may want to review some of these programs and look at the current benefits from planting cover crops yet this fall.

Plant Health Pyramid

Soil health and plant health are closely related. Most pest issues are due to inadequate plant nutrition and poor plant health. Most weeds thrive where at least one plant nutrient is lacking. Healthy plants have adequate nutrients levels to repel insects and disease organisms.

Transitioning to Soil Health

Farmers in a conventional tilled corn-soybean rotation often ask how they can improve soil health. It is not easy but also not impossible. Improving soil health starts with evaluating your soil and then fixing those problems.

Reading Weeds

Weeds often tell a story about how a farm is managed. Most weeds grow really well in soils low in calcium with low humus. Often potassium and/or magnesium levels are high, but not always. Many weeds act as collectors of minerals that are deficient in the soil.

Corn Brace Roost: What Do They Tell Us?

The 2021 crop year has been quite variable. A dry winter/spring followed by periods of excess rain and dry hot weather has caused considerable plant stress. Corn plants typically give us many tell-tale signs of soil conditions.

Improving Photosynthetic Potential

Farmers do not often think about how their management practices can influence the rate of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis has always been assumed to be constant, but it is not.

Soybean Pests

Many pests and diseases are rearing their ugly head this year. Fall armyworm, aphids, soybean cyst nematodes (SCN), sudden death syndrome (SDS), and white mold are common problems. Weather and management play a key role in the severity of these pests.

Using Electricity to Assess Soil Health

A new break-through in soil health testing has occurred which may allow researchers and farmers to instantly measure soil health and microbial activity. A group of Washington State University researchers are using small electrical currents to assess soil microbes and soil health impacts.