When considering soil health and fertility, there are different schools of thought on how to best manage soil and keep it productive. One method is what’s called a “buildup and maintenance” program. This focuses achieving high fertility levels and maintaining them. The second is a “sufficiency” approach. This aims to build levels of fertility that allow for “sufficient” production. Finally, the goal of the “base saturation” method is to attain particular concentrations of positively charged elements in the soil. All three of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on where you are in the world. The one glaring weakness of all three, however, is a failure to account for the big economic picture.
Consider the economics of your soil health management plan.
In farming, it seems that margins are always thin. You have to think about economics when you develop your soil health management plan. Logistics can be another barrier. Before you settle on a course of action, be sure you’ve asked whether it’s both affordable and logistically feasible within your timeframes.
Soil health is a process, not an event.
It took a long time for the soil to get into its present condition. It stands to reason that it will take time to improve its health. Just as our bodies require time to get healthier, whether by losing weight, addressing a heart condition, or controlling diabetes, the soil also requires time to get healthy—and effort to maintain that level of health.
Gather data to develop an individualized soil plan.
Where do you start? First, you must understand your cost of production and historical yields in order to develop a budget. Next, gather the most recent fertility data possible on your farm. It will be sorted into fields and areas of fields to provide more precise insight in to your soil health. Recommendations can be tailored for your farm and its individual parts based on the demands of both your soil and your budget.
Calcium is king.
What nutrients should you look at first? In most crop production systems, calcium is king. When calcium is depleted, you should make every effort to correct that issue first. If that means you have to limit the application of other products, then so be it. Then, look at what else is most needed in the soil to support healthy plants. Throughout this process, you’ll need to consider a variety of options; there are likely several that can fit into your economic picture.
SoilRight provides unbiased soil management recommendations to improve farmers’ soil and plant health and their bottom line. Click below to request a free soil consultation, and find out how we can help your farm business grow.