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Dr. Dan Talks Agronomy
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 6:52AM CDT

By Dan Davidson
DTN Contributing Agronomist

I like to test new ideas on the farm and have looked at a lot of things over the past decade. My goal is to do this as an agronomist -- measuring and understanding why things work. It's not good enough to get a yield response. I want to know why it works, and that's where a lot of companies selling products fall short.

The products I test are purchased and used solely for the purpose of validating theories using metrics to measure change. Companies do not employ me, and neither do they request a testimony. However, I do share my results and impressions.

For 2015, my focus will be soil health. Here's the plan:

Cornstalks are tough to break down, can impede planting and are slow to release nutrients and carbon back into the soil. So I'm trying four products on cornstalks (Accomplish LM from Agricen, Residue Digester from BRT Ag & Turf, BD-1 from Biodyne Midwest and Growth Boost from Soil Biotics) this spring along with some 32% UAN (urea ammonia nitrate). I pulled a composite soil sample in each block before application and will pull another sample a month after application and run conventional soil tests and soil health tests.

I have long been a fan of gypsum. I have realized the benefit can build up over time from repeated applications. This year I want to use the Solvita CO2 burst test to measure the soil health boost. I'll be applying application of pelletized gypsum and pelletized humate (Soil Boost from Soil Biotic) and a combination of gypsum and humate. I also want to test the benefit of applying Verdesian's gypsum-specific a polymer with gypsum to keep calcium and sulfate soluble and available to the crop and soil through the season. Preliminary tests in 2013 and 2014 confirm that the Verdesian polymer is working and delivering on that assertion.

PONDERING THE PASTURE

Our 80-acre pasture (with eight paddocks), just doesn't produce enough grass. Last summer I ran a foliar program and covered the pasture twice to stimulate the grass. I know the health of that soil is lacking and soil biological activity is low. The fact that a grass pasture with heavy grazing activity for five to six months a year has such poor soil health surprises me -- but that is the reality. Last fall I applied a ton per acre of synthetic gypsum (Procal 40), this spring I will apply 4 tons per acre of compost and spray it with Chandler Soil Biostimulant (soil enzymes) to stimulate the soil microbes. I will take before and after soil health readings. I am confident I can turn this soil around.

Last year I tried out Crop Health Labs' sap analysis. It measures nutrient concentrations in the sap instead of what has been taken up and stored in plant tissue. The data was intriguing -- showing nutrient concentrations were on the verge of being deficient compared to routine tissue testing. I am going to repeat this test on corn and soybeans this year pulling samples every three weeks to develop a trend over the season. I am so intrigued with this test's potential that I also want to see if I can measure the benefits of applying foliar nutrients and also whether the application of E300 (super adjuvant) improves nutrient uptake in plants treated with and without a foliar.

It's an ambitious plan. I know I will learn some things and I hope that the additional measurements will verify the benefits of the technology and support the agronomic claims these companies are making.

Dan Davidson can be reached at AskDrDan@dtn.com
Follow Dan Davidson on Twitter @dandavidsondtn

(PS/SK)


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