“Wow, what the heck is happening to soil nutrients right now?” This is something many farmers are wondering. With extreme weather and rainfall patterns through the 2018 and 2019 seasons, no current soil prediction model can fully understand what is going on in our soils. Biology is continually functioning and changing within the soil, which impacts nutrient availability. Biology is directly impacted by our management systems but also very much impacted by the weather. With the adverse weather that we have had here in Iowa recently, we know our soil biology must be confused. 

So, how do we get a grasp on this and understand what is going on within our soils? We need to manage according to what that soil actually needs. We must see a return on investment based on best management decisions. We can still optimize our yields and inputs while leaving a positive environmental outcome at the end of the day. 

How do we evaluate this?

Over the last couple of years, we have been utilizing the Haney Soil Health Test to understand nutrient behavior over the winter. We have done monthly soil testing during the winter months. We see fascinating results. Even over the winter, when our soils slow down, there is still a lot happening in terms of nutrient availability, especially with nitrogen. 

 

winter nutrients

The graph above shows that at the end of the corn growing season, we have used up most of the available soil nutrients. However, in the fall, whenever the soil is still warm and is not frozen, microbes are very active. Just like we have seen much of this winter so far, microbes are still active. 

In the graph, you will see nutrients becoming available based on that warm soil and active biology. Where we have cover crops, we can hold on to a lot of those nutrients. But, we want to get a better understanding of how nutrients are being held in the cover crop, which nutrients are being held in the crop residue, and when those nutrients will become plant-available, so we can utilize them to grow a crop in 2020 and years to come. 

Why is this important? How Continuum Ag can help

We’ve been doing soil testing to quantify these nutrients. We can do this on your farm as well. We’ll deploy our RightWay soil sampling program or just spot check utilizing a la carte testing to give a better understanding of your soils as they change throughout the year. 

Mother nature is our biggest variable. The last couple of years have been even more extreme in terms of weather. We use data to give us a better understanding of the nutrients available and make better management decisions. We can help you use these tools to manage soil health data and develop a better plan heading into the 2020 growing season. 

winter nutrients

For more information, contact us to discuss some of the data we’ve collected in various trials and to have a conversation about your own operation. We want to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck out of your fertility dollar so that you can see positive environmental and economic returns year after year.