Creating a field of dreamsFarmers can have their field of dreams, but the crops that come out will depend on the ground they sprout up from. “For many years, farmers have been happy pushing 40 bushel yields, but approximately every year that you have been able to pull a 40-bushel yield, you have taken out of that ground approximately 45 pounds of phosphorus,” said Rick Marsh, a sales representative for Southwest Grain, last week at the Southwest Grain Winter Agronomy Update at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
Farmers can have their field of dreams, but the crops that come out will depend on the ground they sprout up from.
“For many years, farmers have been happy pushing 40 bushel yields, but approximately every year that you have been able to pull a 40-bushel yield, you have taken out of that ground approximately 45 pounds of phosphorus,” said Rick Marsh, a sales representative for Southwest Grain, last week at the Southwest Grain Winter Agronomy Update at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson.
“Keep in mind that we’ve been doing that same process for years and years and years, and there are a lot of farmers who have sons coming up behind them,” he said. “You’ve been taking some fairly aggressive yields off of these fields, and the days of adding 20 pounds of phosphorus are gone.”
That could pose a problem for any farmers who want to reap a bumper crop from that same land in the future.
“If you’re on a limited basis on your farm and you’re only going to be farming one more year on it, you might survive it,” Marsh said. “But for those with sons or daughters who are going to take over five or six years down the road, if you don’t start applying more phosphorus safely today, it’s going to be a big struggle for the young men and ladies down the road.”
The importance of healthy soil cannot be stressed enough, said Abbey Wick, assistant professor of soil health-extension at North Dakota State University.
“If we don’t have healthy soil, then we can’t grow healthy food and we aren’t able to have healthy people. The state has really changed its focus to soil health in recent years,” she said. “It wasn’t something that was really talked about in the ‘70s, but the soil health is important to the ability of soil to function within an ecosystem’s boundaries.”
Sometimes producers will push the limits of the soil by planting early, but Marsh said farmers should proceed with caution as growing season nears but is not in full swing yet.
“Yes, it is early,” he said about planting. “Last year, we actually began planting in a couple of weeks. In my mind, it’s too early, but I’ve lost some arguments on it. If you’re going to plant early, you’re going to have to worry about cold soil, cold temperatures and possibly emerging plants in freezing weather.
“If you can’t hold back, it will probably be necessary to consider a product to help you with early seed health. Later on, you must have a minimum of a couple of fungicides in your seed treatment.”
Chris Binstock with Southwest Grain in Dickinson said knowing what is going on with the soil in the fields could play a significant factor in helping producers get even better crop yields than they are already getting.
“How do we get to another level from where we’re at?” he said. “If we’re shooting for 40 bushels of wheat, what do we need to do to take it to the next level? What do we need to be doing to get to 50 bushels or 60 bushels of wheat, or beyond that?”
Soil testing will be a big part of that, Binstock said, so Southwest Grain has plans to purchase a machine that will offer better analysis of the soil texture in a producer’s field, but it isn’t likely to be ready for testing this growing season.
“The next thing we want to do, as far as a soil test goes with Southwest Grain, we’re going to be getting involved in variable rates stuff,” Binstock said. “We’re in the process of this happening and it’s going to take a lot of time for us to get there. It’s going to be a time-consuming matter, and I’m not saying we’re going to be ready this spring for us to be doing that.”
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