If plants could talk, what would they say to you? Sure, this is a pretty abstract question outside of an animated film, but one worth considering as strip-tillers reflect on harvest and begin preparing for the next planting season.

It’s easy enough to turn a deaf ear toward the subtle nutrient requests made by crops during the growing season — especially if fields are looking healthy. However, it’s worthwhile to eavesdrop on crop health with root pits, soil testing and common sense to maximize yield potential.

This is an approach long-taken by Persia, Iowa, strip-tiller Bill Darrington, who for more than 30 years has experimented with progressive, and at times unusual fertilizer applications to strengthen crop health and increase yields.

Darrington outlines his approach in our latest Strip-Till Farmer podcast, but here are a few highlights. Thinking outside-the-box with when and what types of fertilizer to apply on crops may be a difficult mindset to adopt, but one which can offer an economical boost to plant health.

“We all get blinded by nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and when in doubt, putting more on is the mentality most farmers have,” Darrington says. “But when we look at what plants are really asking for, there are things like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that can get overlooked.”

One source for all three is sugar, which can stimulate root growth and provide an energy kick to plants. Applying a pound of sugar per acre costs about $0.75, says Darrington, who admits that he’s been questioned about the return on investment.

“When you understand what crops are after and you are supplying these components, are you going to question if you got your money back on $0.75,” he asks. “It’s not N, P and K, but it increases uptake.”

So when making those seed purchases for next year, take a moment to consider and anticipate the questions that will sprout from inside those bags.

Share your comments and feedback with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at jzemlicka@lessitermedia.com.