Great Bend Tribune
Published January 7, 2018
We are now officially one week into the new year. Many made resolutions to lose weight, read a book, exercise and all the typical sorts of promises for a better 2018 than 2017. Today, as we are in the middle of winter, let’s take a moment to reflect and propose resolutions for agricultural producers in 2018. Many may already be doing some or all of these. These are designed to help producers think about ways to optimize profits not minimize costs.
- Have a plan for crop acreage based upon history, predicted crop prices, best guess on weather and so on. Then based upon history set realistic yield goals. And even with prices and other monetary challenges find a way to provide what crops needs in terms of fertilizer and pest control. Fertilizers, cover crops, green manures, and crop rotations are all part of this. Which leads to:
- If not already in a soil/nutrient testing program, start one. This is not necessarily something needing done every year that depends on what you have, but needs to be monitored and evaluated yearly. Detailed grid sampling is great but very expensive and not always necessary. If you have land with relatively little variation and can document that, a detailed sampling program/map may not be necessary. The key is to establish a baseline of what you have versus what you need to obtain your yield goals. At a minimum, a baseline should be established for pH (acidity), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) to a depth of twelve inches. Acid soils need corrected or you are wasting money on nutrients and seed. Closer to planting, two foot samples for nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) are beneficial, especially on lower organic matter and sandy soils. Sulfur is important in all crops but especially for alfalfa producers. And for wheat farmers, especially with coarser textured soils, examine chloride (Cl) as a possible yield limiting factor. Zinc for corn production on sandy soils. Again the key is to establish a baseline of what you have, supply what you need, and keep track of nutrient removal. Perhaps consider some plant tissue testing on a field or two this year.
- Examine the range of hybrids and varieties through crop performance tests and testing on farm and be willing to try those hybrids and varieties that have a proven track record and are adapted to the area. Talk to neighbors about their selections. Don’t be exclusively loyal to a given company.
- Evaluate weed resistance issues and problems then examine possible solutions with new technologies and herbicides. Tillage is always a possible tool but with the swings of the regions weather from extreme drought to extreme moisture, minimizing tillage is likely vital in conserving soil moisture. However, with some of the weed pressure of the last several years, tillage may be necessary.
- For native pastures used for grazing consider a soil sampling program, especially for N, P and S. Reasonable inputs of these nutrients can often pay be dividends in terms of beef production. Along with this, evaluate the need for weed control to suppress invasive, non-palatable weeds. Control can be mowing, burning, chemical, or a combination of these.
- Be ready to go. The last two years have shown not being ready can result in a significant delay in planting due to weather.
- Attend meetings and read whatever you can. From cover crops to weed control to new herbicide and pest control technologies, learn as much as possible.