New Soil Test Shows Fifty Percent More Nitrogen than Traditional Soil Tests

Rick Haney, USDA-ARS soil scientist developed a new and improved soil test after observing a control plot that produced 60 bushels of corn with no added nutrients. The test measures water-soluble organic carbon and soil biological activity in order to determine the amount of nutrients available for crop uptake. After researching nutrient cycling and carbon mineralization for quite some time, Haney stated, “[We] came to the realization that field conditions and the conditions we have traditionally used in testing soil samples for nutrients in the laboratory are essentially apples and oranges.” Haney’s soil test unearths traditional soil testing’s underestimate of nitrogen (N), missing nearly half of the N actually in the soil for crop use, leading to overapplication and lost revenue. Read the full article here!

NOAA Releases 2017 Algal Bloom Severity Bulletin

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) bulletin report issued November 7th, this year’s harmful algal bloom (HAB) reached a severity index (SI) of 8, categorizing the bloom as severe. This SI is roughly the same severity as the 2013 bloom, which was considered the third worst bloom observed in the past century. During the week of September 20th, 2017, the bloom covered 1000 square miles from Toledo to Ontario. The bloom severity is attributed to the heavy rains in May and late June of this year leading to increased bioavailable phosphorus runoff mainly from farm fields. Read the bulletin here.
Find out more on how the ag industry is addressing the bloom.

New Phosphorus (P) Fertilizer Enhancer Increases P Uptake by Crops

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Kansas State University have found a way to increase soluble phosphorus (P), the kind of P that crops utilize directly. In an acre furrow slice, typically 100 to 3000 pounds of total P is found, however, only one to two pounds is actually available for crop uptake due to P fixation. Todd Carpenter, technical development manager for Verdesian Life Sciences (VLS), the company that has developed a fertilizer additive to increase soluble P, states, “The result of this fixation is that 60% to 95% of the P fertilizer you apply this year will not be used by this year’s crop, and no one can predict when it will be available.” The fertilizer additive developed by VLS called AVAIL has been examined by the two universities, and the studies show that there is a potential for 30% more P available for crop uptake with the enhancer, leading to a 20-50% reduction in P application. Read the full article!

Cover Crops Can Reduce Your Water Use

Cover crops retain large amounts of water in fields, which is especially beneficial in times of drought. Farmer Brendon Rockey turned to cover crops in 2007 when a drought hit Colorado. The following year, his water use dropped, and after rotating potatoes and cover crops in different fields over time, he found his water use was cut in half! Rockey also noticed a change in his field’s soil health after planting cover crops, and reduced his use of pesticides and fertilizers in response. Rockey does not use any chemicals on his farm; he instead has planted a flowering strip to attract beneficial insects as well as insects like aphids, to distract them from damaging crops as they prefer the pollen and nectar of the strip. Read the full article!