Soil sampling is an increasingly embraced practice to help farmers understand what’s taking place beneath the soil surface.
While many farmers can explain how and where they take samples from a field, not everyone can quantify the return on analysis of those soil snapshots. Granted, frequency and grid size are factors in the accuracy of the sample data, but there is substantial value to be had with a reliable sample.
Verona, Mo., strip-tiller Gary Wolf is especially conscious of his soil testing practices to maximize the growing potential on 325 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans. Farming extremely shallow, red clay soils — which can dry out during summer and are prone to compaction — Wolf finds that constant monitoring of soil health, partnered with strip-till, can save money — even in adverse growing conditions.
“In our part of the country, we can get a good 1-inch rain, but if the ground is hard that water will just run off,” he says. “With strip-till, all of that water goes into the ground.”
Wolf soil tests his fields twice a year — once in the spring before planting, and again immediately after harvest to assess nutrient levels. Wolf acknowledges that he’s more aggressive than some farmers with his soil-testing habits, but his vigilance has translated to substantial fertilizer savings.
Specifically, he’s been able to carry over more phosphorus year to year. And he can better target nitrogen and potassium with banded applications in the berm during a spring strip-till pass with a 6-row bar with Yetter Magnum coulter units.
“We’ve really been able to build up our phosphorus levels, and, for the last 5-6 years, I haven’t had to spread any phosphorus,” Wolf says. “Fertilizer-wise, we’ve probably been able to save $50-100 per acre just through soil testing. It’s a practice that has provided some of the biggest benefits on my farm, especially with the conditions we face.”
It’s a comforting feeling to know that fertilizer and water is getting to, and staying where it’s needed most throughout the growing season — no matter where you strip-till.
To hear more about Wolf’s strip-till system, join us at the 2015 National Strip-Tillage Conference in Iowa City, Iowa, this summer, where he will be presenting. Stay tuned for more details.