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Here’s the annual reminder to test your soil

Hello, Trumbull County. If there are any constants in life they are change, taxes and Extension recommending a soil test.

We recommend soil testing for a variety of reasons, including economic, environmental and diagnostics. This year, we are highly recommending soil testing based on the increasing cost of fertilizer. Fertilizer has doubled, or tripled, in price compared to a year ago. Higher input costs could erode any profit from higher crop prices and knowing your nutrient needs for each field could save you thousands of dollars.

As of Oct. 11, monoammonium phosphate (MAP; 11-52-0) is currently over $800 per ton, potash (0-0-60) is over $700 per ton, and let’s not even start to discuss nitrogen prices. These prices are significantly higher than last year, and the outlook is not favorable for the prices to stabilize and come back down. Many people are wondering why there is a sudden spike in prices, but unfortunately there is no single issue to blame. Rather, a culmination of multiple issues is driving up the price related to lingering supply issues from COVID-19, foreign policy, and decreased output all contribute to the increase in price.

A relatively small cost of soil testing can have huge savings on your fertilizer bill. If you are planting corn or soybeans next year, your optimal range for phosphorus and potassium is between 40 to 80 pounds per acre and 240 to 340 pounds per acre in Mehlich 3 values, respectively. If your soil test report is within this range, applying crop removal rates is recommended to replace the nutrients you are pulling off this fall. Applying fertilizer to fields with values above those ranges will provide no agronomic or economic benefit and will not result in an increased yield. Even if your soil test report is close to the upper end of that optimal range, you may be able to cut back your fertilizer rate without any loss of yield.

If you have not taken a look at the updated Tri-State Fertility Guide, you should check out the new crop removal rates. You can find a free pdf copy on our website at: https://trumbull.osu.edu/program-areas/agriculture-and-natural-resources/nutrient-management-0. Research over last several years on crop removal rates for corn and soybeans has shown that although we are harvesting more bushels per acre, we are not taking as much phosphorus and potassium per bushel as we were 30 years ago. Updated values for potassium are quite stark, with a 27 percent decrease per bushel in corn and an 18 percent decrease per bushel in soybeans. By using the latest data you can cut your potassium fertilizer cost quite significantly.

Let’s use an example for corn that yields 200 bushels per acre. You would be removing 0.35lb of P2O5 and 0.20 pounds of K2O for each bushel. On a per acre basis you are removing 70 pounds of P2O5 and 40 pounds of K2O. That is your crop removal, and to maintain fertility levels to support a successful crop that amount needs to be returned. Soybeans remove 0.80 pounds of P2O5 and 1.15 pounds K2O per bushel. Although soybeans require more nutrients per bushel, yields are much lower than that of corn so overall you are not removing as much nutrients. Soybean yields average about 50 bushel peracre in our area which would remove 40 pounds of P2O5 and 58 pounds of K2O per acre.

With higher fertilizer inputs of corn, many farmers are considering dropping corn acres in favor of soybeans. While this may make sense in the short term, if the market changes you may be left behind if corn prices increase, or soybeans drop. If you have any questions about developing an economical fertility program for corn, beans, alfalfa, wheat, or hay in 2022 please give me a call and we can walk through several scenarios to maximize your profit.

Last mont, I wrote about an armyworm infestation. I want to end this month’s column on a similar note. The second generation is here and is causing more local damage than in September. If you have any questions about fall armyworm, soil testing, nutrient management, or any other gardening / farming topics give me a call at 330-638-6783 or email me at beers.66@osu.edu.

Take care, and stay healthy.

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