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Five tips for starting your spring forage program off right

Wayne Tucker Published on 27 February 2012

The potential for producers to profit from their crop is currently at a very high level due to the elevated demand for forage, both domestically and in overseas markets.

On the other hand, the rising cost of fertilizers, chemicals, water and the public’s growing preference for natural agricultural methods puts many agriculturalists at risk of decreasing profit potential.

This potential for high profit paired with rising costs indicates that some farmers will be looking to ways to improve their farming practices as a means of maximizing profit and ensuring the continued health of the soil for future harvests.

As one option available for consideration, soil inoculants work to rebuild the naturally occurring nutrients that should be present in soil and this, in turn, improves soil texture, water and nutrient retention and overall plant vigor.

In the U.S. most soils have very shallow aerobic zones. Soils with shallow aerobic zones can negatively affect productivity because they are compacted, low in humus, have low water- and nutrient-holding capacity and have very low oxygen content.

Soil inoculants can be an effective means of counteracting these problems because they enliven all of the naturally-occurring microbes within the soil to improve nutrient availability and water-holding capacity in the rhizosphere.

Here are five additional tips on how to prepare your field for a profitable spring:

1. Take a soil sample down to a depth of at least one foot. Clean all roots and plant debris from the sample, and if the soil is wet or damp let it air-dry. Do not heat-dry the sample, as this can affect the quality of the results.

Have a lab do a comprehensive test to show trace elements present in the soil. While this test is not free, in the long term, it can save you a great deal of money and could drastically improve the quality of your forage.

2. Use a fertilizer that, based on your soil test, is fitting for the elements present in your soil content. NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) are important; however, trace elements can also influence the quality of your forage and herd.

3. Implement a sustainable program to help rebuild the carbon (humus) content in your soil to help enable the rhizosphere to better hold water and nutrients.

Engage in sustainable practices that rebuild, restore and renew the soil. This will create healthier and more productive soil that will continue to reap high-quality crops and, in turn, high profits.

4. Perform at least one petiole test to make sure the grass contains magnesium, manganese, zinc, molybdenum and other micronutrients, as these are essential for a quality forage and a healthy herd that can increase in population.

5. Consider planting new varieties of forage that are drought-tolerant early in the season, as this will minimize loss in the unfortunate case of a drought.

Let this forage grow as long as possible before grazing and do not overgraze; this will add to the forage quantity and improve the forage’s ability to withstand a drought.

The demand for American agricultural products is presenting a valuable opportunity for huge profits; however, agriculturalists must continue to look after the longevity and overall health of their soil to ensure prosperity during future harvests.  FG

References omitted due to space but are available upon request.

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Wayne Tucker
Bio S.I. Technology

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