Soil Nutrient Levels Can Be A Concern On Newly Acquired Land

(The following article recently appeared in a PotashCorp ‘field reports’ bulletin, Fall 2016)

Changes Expected With Rented Farmland

Kelvin Leibold, Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist, focuses his efforts on North Central Iowa, where between 61 to 70 percent of all farmland is rented.  “Last year, there were a few farmers in our area that had to reorganize and let rented farmland go,” he says.  “I expect twice as much this year.”

Michael Boehlje, a distinguished professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, also expects farmers to exit due to age or the downturn in the agricultural sector.  “Over the past few years, some farmers have delayed exiting the business due to higher prices,” he says.  “However, we expect a turn in the rental market for the upcoming growing season.”

Managing Newly Acquired Land

This shift could provide an opportunity for farmers who have had difficulty renting new ground in the past two to four years to expand their operations.  Boehlje says farmers interested in expanding their operations should already be thinking about how they want to proceed.

Farmers renting new ground should do research on soil fertility levels in their area when they are determining rental bids.  As a way to cut costs, the previous operator might have drawn down the soil P and K levels versus building up soil fertility levels – especially if they were uncertain of how long they would be farming the ground.

While many farm leases have provisions about soil fertility in them, Kevin Leibold, Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist, says some renters might not be adhering to them.

“Farmers are expected to apply nutrients to replace what their crops remove,” Leibold says.  “But in reality, I am not sure it is happening.”

Tim Smith, managing agronomist for Cropsmith based in Monticello, Illinois, says soil nutrient levels in his area have likely been reduced since yields have exceeded their fertilized yield targets.

“Soil tests are a very inexpensive way to monitor nutrients and pH levels,” he says.  “Farmers should use soil testing as a guideline and look at soil tests over time.”

Overall, it is important to focus on trends rather than the absolute numbers in the soil test.  For example, if a nutrient is trending downward, he says farmers should discuss the need for corrective management options with their retail agronomist.

To help retailers and farmers determine their fertilizer rates on any newly rented land, PotashCorp offers a number of tools and resources such as the Nutrient ROI Calculator 2.0 and a Nutrient Removal Calculator on the eKonomics website.

Source: PotashCorp

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