Information Overload

It seems like every time you turn around, there’s another soil issue or fertility question you need to be aware of.

It might be salinity, or fertility or how a certain crop reacts to any number of other variables. You’ll find these discussions popping up in farm newspapers, magazines, extension reports and even blog postings like this one.

It’s just too much, and more importantly, in my opinion, they’re all just a broad brush that look at individual issues, taken out of the context of a larger biological system that needs to be nourished and protected.

For example a recent article in a farm newspaper took a long look at whether or not soybeans need phosphorous fertilizer. It’s a fair question and the writer spent a lot of time talking to a whole lot of smart people about this question. In the end the answer appeared to be ‘yes, but it won’t respond to it.’

By that I mean the researchers the writers talked to all said they didn’t see a yield effect when applying phosphorous, but they felt that was because the plant is an efficient forager and if these application weren’t made long-term fertility would be affected.

To be clear, I wasn’t involved in this research and my contact with it is reading the article, but I will say that my own personal experience makes me a little skeptical that this is what’s going on.

There are many reasons that crops may or may not react to fertility applications. There may be an underlying soil condition that stunts their yield potential, for example. There may be a hardpan that’s developed over time and the roots can’t penetrate to reach water and nutrients. I’ve seen these sort of situations many times visiting clients’ fields, and I have come over time to believe issues that get discussed broadly are often trumped by what’s actually happening in the field. It’s a local problem, in other words.

I’ve also had the pleasure over the years of working with growers who have been very progressive thinkers and early adopters of new crops like soybeans. One client in particular has been growing soybeans the past five seasons with no fertility applications at all. The crop, of course, fixes its own nitrogen, and the other nutrients are readily available in the soil.

Why are they readily available? Because we’ve undertaken a custom program for those fields that has sought out and addressed yield-limiting factors, while at the same time encouraging the natural processes of the soil. Healthier soil has more available nutrients and more naturally-occurring soil builders present helping plants absorb nutrients in a symbiotic relationship.

We feel farmers who want to answer some of these bigger questions need to pay attention to the smaller details, and we’re here to help.

Ed Mayer, President, BioAgronics