On The Farm: Importance of Soil Testing - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

On The Farm: Importance of Soil Testing

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North central North Dakota is a unique agricultural area. Producers here are able to choose from about 15 different crops that grow well in this part of the state, but the success of any one of those crops starts in the soil.

From corn, to wheat, to soybeans, the success of any crop starts with the soil.

“Typically, farmers are going to test their fields regardless of what they're planting. There are crops out there that do require higher levels of certain nutrients, and those fields are typically key to be tested,” says Ward County Ag Extension agent Paige Brummund.

Soil testing is a practice used by farmers across the country to find out the chemical make-up of the soil in their crop fields. Knowing the levels of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that are in the ground, affect the type and amount of fertilizer a farmer will buy.

“Sometimes, it doesn't always make sense to put down a whole bunch of fertilizer if you're only going to be able to get a certain yield, and if it's still not going to be profitable, or maybe if you put down this much fertilizer, maybe you can get a higher yield, but when you look at the price of the crop maybe that's not going to pay off in the long run,” says Brummund.

Soil testing is usually done in the spring and fall, and about 20-30 samples are taken from all over a crop field. Nutrient levels can change from year to year because of a farmer's crop rotation or weather conditions.

“When we get excess moisture it can leech out some of our nutrients, so either push those farther down in the soil where the plant roots can't reach them, or a lot of time if they didn't get incorporated, some of those nutrients can essentially wash away for lack of a better word,” says Brummund.

In an industry where a farmer's yield is never a sure thing, and their success isn't 100 percent in their control, having a soil test to get a handle on their input prices is one way they can stay above the red line.

“You do have to kind of do the math. You have to figure what that crop is going to bring you in the fall, and what you can afford to put into the ground to boost your yield,” says Brummund.

Farmers who need more information on soil testing can contact the Ward County Extension Office at 857-6444 or the North Central Research Center at 857-7679.

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