I always like going back to some core fertility when we're dealing with nutrient management, whether we have sensor technologies or not. We have to really start looking at what data do we need to collect to make informed decisions? Informed decisions are key to improving profitability and nutrient management, whether you're in strip-till, no-till or ridge-till.
If we start to look at nutrient management, I think a rather eloquent way that it's put, giving credit to Brian Arnall at Oklahoma State, is a ladder approach — looking at nutrient management as a stepping-stone type ladder.
So we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. We're never going to get to the point, or we just aren't yet to the point where sensor technology is to where you don't have to soil sample. It's still a highly recommended practice that can really improve the quality of your nutrient management program.
And so what are some of the nutrient management items that we should consider, in prioritized order? If we look at the bottom of the ladder, the first thing we should probably consider is soil pH.
The reason being that soil pH is one of the most nutrient-limiting factors in the soil. If our soil does not have the appropriate pH levels, it can reduce the availability of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and on the whole, bring down your entire nutrient management program and reduce profitability.
There's substantial amount of research out there done by universities that show simple applications of lime and keeping that pH at the right zone can greatly improve the profitability on your farm.