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UnderseededClover

Six limiting factors in your soil that will make or break your operation

Soil, your primary infrastructure

Farms and grazing operations — organic or otherwise — are only as good as their worst resource, according to Oregon-based grazier Abe Collins.

“Soil is our primary infrastructure on the farm,” said Collins, who spoke at the recent Organic Alberta conference.

“Biologically, chemically, and physically, you need to be looking at the limiting factors in your soil.”

In the Canadian Prairies, water tends to be a key limiting factor when it comes to growing crops and forages — but there are others as well, said Collins.

This checklist covers off six other important factors that could mean the difference between success and failure on your farm. While Collins was speaking to an audience of organic producers, there’s plenty of good ideas for conventional growers to borrow too.

1. Year-long green

The first rule, says Collins, is “100 per cent covered soils 100 per cent of the time — never bare soil.

“Bare soil is a burn victim,” he said. 
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Intensive Zone Soil Sampling

The dirt on soil tests

With soil nutrient levels dropping, how do you need to change your soil-testing program and fertility rates?

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Fewer farmers are sampling their soils. In Ontario, the numbers say fewer than 30 per cent of farmers test every three years, even though this trend is leading to a data gap at a time when everything else seems to be changing too, such as the rapid climb in yield potentials, and elite corn hybrids that are so much more efficient at extracting nutrients.

Also worrying is that the experts are lining up to tell us that, one way or another, more farmers are mining their soils. Read more