Nutrient Management: The key to a successful 2014

Is your farm ready for the upcoming growing season? Nutrient management planning is vital for a productive 2014 growing season.

Now is the time to evaluate and modify your farm’s nutrient plan for the upcoming growing season. If a nutrient plan has not been made for your farm it is a perfect time to start one. There are many reasons to have a plan including:

  • Ensuring there is sufficient but not excess nutrients applied
  • Nutrient loss is prevented
  • Improve soil health

The most important reason for farms to have a nutrient management plan is for the farm’s economic sustainability. To ensure profitability, Michigan State University Extension recommends that farms monitor their nutrient needs and evaluate through the growing season ensuring the plan is effective.

There are tests that can be done prior to planting, during growth and after harvest to evaluate your nutrient management plan. Prior to planting crops, a soil test should be taken at a minimum of every three to four years. If there is an area in a field that is of concern, more frequent soil tests in that area maybe warranted. During the growing season some crops benefit by taking a pre-sidedress nitrogen test (PSNT). This test will determine if more nitrogen will be needed for the growing crop. A leaf petiole sample is another important sample that can determine if more nitrogen needs to be applied. Later in the growing season a stalk nitrogen test can also be done to ensure that there is not excess nitrogen in the plant. The final test, and unfortunately for some farms the only test, taken is a yield determination. This test can help determine if adequate nutrients were available to the plants but it does not determine if excess nutrients were added.

There are many sources available that farms may go to for assistance to start or evaluate their nutrient management plan. Your local crops extension educator, Natural Resources Conservation Service and/or conservation district staff, and agri-business consultants are available at different level of service to help farms with their management plans.

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