Economics of Fertility Management

(Lucas) My name is Lucas Haag and I help lead a team that puts together the annual Cover Your Acres Conference here in Oberlin. This is our 13th annual conference. And so we really pride ourselves in being research driven and being focused on the needs of producers right here in the central plains. And so this year, of course, profitability is on top of everyone’s mind so we have two talks by economists and then one talk I am giving from an agronomic standpoint of how do we bring some profitability into managing soil fertilities. And certainly profitability is a large piece of what we are focusing on this year, as well as dealing with resistant weeds which is a large issue for a lot of our producers. And so we got Curtis Thompson and Phil Stallman at Manhattan and Hays here are giving us the latest battle plans on how do we deal with kochia and palmer amaranth. So, my talk on the Economics of Fertility Management, what really puts us in a unique situation right now is our grain to nutrient price ration. Really drives…it’s going to pay us to do a better job of managing our nutrients. And so I really focused on soil sampling and the potential returns from that. In fact here in northwest Kansas in a wheat/corn/fallow system by having soil test information we’ve shown that could put as much as 10 to 12 dollars an acre per crop per year back into your pocket. And so we focused on, a key piece of that though is getting good data. And so the take home message is is that we’re soil testing, we really need 15 cores minimum to make up that soil sample to get a representative sample. So being aware of that we’re looking at sources of nutrients, making sure we are comparing everything on a price per pound of nutrient basis. Because all other things the plants sees those as equal regardless of source. So those are some of the things we really focused on but certainly this year soil sampling has the opportunity to really pay for producers. So, part of the deal with collecting 15 cores is we’re trying to overcome the very small scale space variability that’s in the field from previous banded fertilizer applications or for grazing livestock on the field, we create a lot of small scale variability. So, getting enough cores…and that 15 cores holds true whether we’re taking a sample that represents an entire quarter section or whether we’re taking a sample that represents a two and a half acre grid cell, 15 cores is very important. Also keep in mind that as we’re collecting samples is that we get them mixed thoroughly, let ’em air dry and get ’em shipped off to your lab. So, a great source of information every year here at the conference, we put together proceedings book that includes summary papers and slides from our presenters. We also hope to be uploading videos of the presentations that have occurred here. And folks can access that if they go to And we have all the proceedings clear back from the very first conference years ago are all online for folks to reference.

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