After many months meeting farmers from all over the country at tradeshows, I put together a short list of topics that were raised from many of our friends and future clients. This is not a comprehensive list, but a starting point for anyone looking to quickly and inexpensively increase yields.
1. Soil Test
According to Midwest labs only 1 in 6 farmers are soil testing. You soil is the most important part of your farm. If you don't know what's in it, how do you know what to add? It takes more than a good CSR or knowing you soil type to grow high yields.
2. Understand Soil Life
They have been referred to as the livestock of the soil. I prefer to think of them as free help, if you help them out once in a while. The little creatures that make soil (they literally make soil form organic matter, rocks, and air) will make farming a lot easier for you if you let them.
3. Don't be a More-On
If a little is good a lot is better, right? WRONG, applying more and more N-P-K will not get you to the next yield plateau. Only by knowing what is missing in your soil and adding it in the proper amounts will you gain significant yield.
4. Avoid Compaction
This is probably the biggest yield robber of all-time. Many soils have hard pans 8-12 inches deep. This dramatically limits the amount of soil roots come into contact with, reduces water holding capacity, increase diseases and lodging.
5. Avoid Potassium Chloride (KCl)
Some crops need a little chloride, most do not need the dose that 0-0-60 (muriate of potash provides. In addition to keeping soils wet and killing beneficial soil life, it increases leaching of soluble calcium. Avoid this or risk spending more money on other fertilizers and soil amendments.
6. Keep soil oxygen levels up
Soil by volume need to contain 25% oxygen. This increase nutrient uptake to plants, increases beneficial soil life and reduce diseases like rhizoctonia and fusarium. Soil should be thought of as a living breathing organism, and as such needs oxygen.
7. Keep your soil sulfur high
Keeping good levels of sulfur in your soil ensures greater N uptake and nitrogen efficiency, keeps sodium and magnesium levels in check, builds organic matter, and helps produces higher protein crops.
8. Dig plants and inspect roots
If you do this periodically you will quickly be able to tell if you have compaction, disease, insects, and low calcium levels. Roots should be bright white, if not you need more calcium. Like eyes are the way to the soul, roots will give a quick indication of how happy your plants are.
9. Leave test strips
I always hear farmers say, “I don’t really know if it worked, it s