Unearth Yield-Limiting Factors
We all desire more yield. Although plant genetics are responsible for massive amounts of yield gain since we transitioned from open pollinated corn to hybridization, it’s time we take a deeper look. It’s time we rediscover soil’s role in increasing yield and redefine plant diets.
“We can increase real organic matter 0.1% per year on intensely managed farms, and that increases our corn yield goal 2.7 bushels,” Ken Rulon of Arcadia, Indiana, is quoted as saying in a June 2018 issue of The Furrow magazine. “When you increase organic matter the soil becomes darker, and everybody in the world knows darker soil is more productive.”
Rulon can prove using no-till and cover crops is improving soil quality— and returning a net profit of $57.76 per acre on his family’s 6,300-acre farm. He and his family have worked extensively with Purdue University researchers, whose replicated plots show the same results. The Rulons are producing higher yields using 20 pounds less phosphorus, 30 pounds less potash and 35 pounds less nitrogen per acre than conventional practices.
Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. The Furrow article illustrates how improved soil structure, specifically organic matter (OM), has helped reduce yield losses during dry conditions. This is important because the timing of rain events is unpredictable. Case in point: this season fields in the Upper Midwest received high volumes of rain during short amounts of time. Improving the OM in the soil helps absorb water more quickly, holding it in the root zone like a massive soil sponge. Therefore, good soil structure also helps reduce erosion.
Each soil type and growing climate is uniquely different, making It critical that you do some research on your own farm. You know which fields need more attention, so consider giving that piece of ground some TLC. Develop a plan. Consider a Solvita® soil test as a good starting point. Need more inspiration? Check out the 7 Wonders of Corn Yield by Dr. Fred Below.
Thinking long term for that piece of ground will help cast a vision. Have improved soil health define part of your life legacy and give an amazing gift to humanity!