Friday, October 19, 2012

Making 200 Bushel Ground Out Of 150

Here is a good topic for today's blog:

"I farm both types and of course the goal is to make them all 200. When faced with the major difference being soil type and depth, can a sows ear really be made into a silk purse (or at least a kind of nice purse)?

I've been using hog manure the last few years and it seems to be getting a little better. Tiling just isn't an option for the land ownership and I don't think things are long term enough for me to take it on myself either - would tile make #2 soil compete with #1 or just make it a little better? Or, is this more of a live with what I got situation - try to fix significant issues, but it is what it is. For land like this have guys found that minimum tillage and other practices that reduce costs are a better direction than farming it like it will yield 220?

I know it sounds a little obvious but I'm betting we are all faced with these situations and I can't say it would be an easy decision to back off, but spending even more money may turn the ground into an expensive hobby also."

My response would be that finding your lowest common denominator is the key.  For me, that was taking soil tests regularly in the same zone using the Midwest Soil Test which is similar to the old OARDC REALab numbers I worked with all my life.  The tissue test has helped me understand how what I had and what I applied got into the plant or failed to get there.

This has resulted in my applying more lime, P, K, and micronutrients than formerly had been applied.  I usually apply Manganese Sulfate and Boron now finally seem to have my Zinc and Copper in line.  I seem to not be able to get too much calicium on these soils and am waiting for 2 tons per acre applied to all our ground right now.

Hog manure is good, I would prefer cow manure but poultry litter works best on the ground around here.  It is better calcium balanced because of the need in poultry diets.  Applying manure in a notill situation is challenging but many are doing it very well.  NPKK Pork in Iowa would be a good place for you to look.  Yes we can take a little less yield with a lot less tillage and leave more soil in the field and more money on our bottom line.

Drainage is a big issue.  If drainage is the limiting factor, the farmer is going to gain more from installing tile than the above listed method.  How do you drain someone else's land?  A few have worked out a deal but not many.  The tile plow craze has helped but it is still darned expensive to tile someone else's farm, I don't care how you look at it.

I have pretty much done what the post asks in nine years.  My corn APH is 190, wheat a lousy 70 bushels, soybeans 61 bushels and double crop soybeans 40 bushels.  It was a third less than that or so 9 years ago.

I see more more and more farmers applying calcium to help pH, soil structure and nutrient flow but it is still a small number.  I see more farmers "spoon feeding" nutrients as they have become so expensive and we have learned how to apply them a little at a critical time.

On cover crops, I think the radish is helping break my soil pans and putting nutrient where my crop roots can get to.  The verdict is still out how much cover crops help but the increases I have seen with radish planted in wheat and corn and beans after radish and blends look good.

The soil where I took the picture is 150 bushel ground.  The soil below it in the far distance is 200 bushel ground.  Do you really think you can change it that much?  The differences between two have occured over thousands of years.  One farmer's lifetime is only going to do so much but yes, we can make a profitable and sustainable impact.

I thought this was a good blog topic today so I thank Pat H in Illinois for posting his question on Crop Talk.

Ed Winkle

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