Prepare Now for Increased Production in 2024

There’s more to fall than getting the combine ready. To ensure healthy, productive soils next year, think about doing these three things now:

  1. Review your field data
  2. Correct compaction
  3. Add a cover crop

Whether your fields produce bumper crops or have lower-than-average yields, take the time after harvest to assess soil fertility levels, replenish depleted nutrients, determine reasons for high- and low-yielding areas and evaluate overall soil health. Doing this can help give your crops a head start for next season.

Soil samples and yield maps can predict the future

Begin next season’s preparations by pulling post-harvest soil samples and assessing this season’s yield maps. Soil samples will identify any phosphorus or potassium deficiencies, while yield maps will show the amount of nutrients removed from the soil by this year’s crops. This information will help you determine crop nutrient amounts for next season, based on actual numbers rather than estimates.

If post-harvest conditions allow, farmers can make partial (or base) nitrogen applications in the fall. Then test soil nitrate levels in the spring to determine the additional amount needed to meet next season’s crop performance goals. This ensures that nitrogen will be available in the soil at planting, as well as throughout the remainder of the growing season. If weather delays spring applications, this nitrogen management strategy provides you with more time to assess fertility needs based on early-season crop and soil conditions.

Consider fall nitrogen applications with a stabilizer

If you can make a fall nitrogen application, consider the effects of soil texture, soil moisture levels and soil temperature to avoid leaching and denitrification issues. Fall nitrogen applications should not be made until your soil cools to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, when soil bacteria begin to go dormant. Fall-applied nitrogen must be used with a stabilizer to prevent it from converting into a mobile nitrate form that can move off-target and run off into nearby waterways. If manure is part of your nitrogen strategy, consider also using a stabilizer.

Ease spring workloads with simple steps

If your fall soil samples identify phosphorus (P) or potassium (K) deficiencies, you can apply these nutrients any time after harvest. To ease spring workloads, broadcast applications may be made in the fall and incorporated into the soil. If a spring application works better, P and K can also be applied prior to planting.

Another important issue to assess in the fall is soil compaction. Before doing any fall tillage, check compaction depth to help you determine the proper tillage tool to use. Accurate tillage depth and the tillage speed will loosen soil and prepare it for next season.