Many times I have heard growers who have started using a Biological Soil Management Program, comment that “they drove by the field but couldn’t see any difference.” Not Surprisingly … as University study shows that it will take approx 30% difference in yield to create a visual change, while results like that can and do happen it is definitely not the norm. Still the important thing to remember is that we can’t tell what is going on in the SOIL from a drive by in a pickup truck. So, here are some quick and easy things you can do on your own farm to check your “Below Ground” results.
1. DIG ROOTS! – Dig where you applied product versus an area that was not treated. Look for a deeper and larger root ball, especially look for finer roots hairs with more webbing throughout the root (finer root hairs are the feeder roots that uptake nutrients to the plant). Generally the value of increased root mass alone can return the cost of a soil program. Increasing Root Mass in the soil, increases Organic Matter which is essential to the long term health of your soil.
2. COMPARE PLANTS – Look at overall plant health and yield potential. Dig up an entire plant every 20 paces for 100 steps, and lay the 5 treated versus 5 non-treated plants on the tailgate. Generally doing plant comparisons show significant differences between the two areas. Do a finished plant population count. In Corn: Just 1000 additional plants per acre, will equal a 5 – 7 bushel increase which adds dollars to the bottom line.
3. COMPARE SOILS – Take a 5 gal. bucket and fill it with soil from a treated versus a non-treated area. Pour the 2 soils out on the ground and look at the color and texture of the soils. Break the soil up in your hands and notice how the soils break up. Smell the two soils. A soil with higher microbial life generally has a more earthy aroma. The longer you use these programs the greater contrast you will see.
4. TRACK YIELD – Lastly, make sure you keep accurate Harvest Yield Data, Crop Weights and Crop Quality Numbers for the areas you have treated versus your control area. Remember that some differences like germination rates, plant survivability, TDN / RFV, Dry Matter and Crop Maturity can seem relatively small up front, but ultimately add real dollars to the bottom line at harvest time. The only way to release tied up nutrients is through a soil biological action. More available nutrients = increased yield. Active soils will convert & release more plant available nutrients to help maximize yields.
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