Experts warn skimping on soil fertility costs is poor choice for farmers

Continuing to test soil and apply fertilizer as needed based on results of the tests will be beneficial to farmers. | File photo

While some economists are predicting 2016 will be a bleak year for commodity prices, most say it is important for farmers to take a very good look at all aspects of their business before deciding to cut soil fertility costs, which could have devastating results.

The nutrients provided by the soil are necessary to produce viable crops and good yield. 

“I tend to find that there are folks that are probably putting out more fertilizer than they need,” Josh McGrath, a University of Kentucky Extension soil fertility specialist, said. “What I find is that during the good years, many farmers invest in things like phosphorus and potassium, which are elements that tend to stay in the soil if leftover between seasons.”

However, McGrath says having too much nutrient when crop prices are high is also not the best idea and will not give the best rate of return possible. Soil samples need to be tested often to determine soil-nutrient and pH values.

University of Illinois Farm Management Specialist Gary Schnitkey also reminds farmers to look at everything when determining a 2016 budget. He believes commodity prices may stay low for a couple of years, and both McGrath and Schnitkey agree that farmers should look to the cost-cutting potential of machinery.

“Typically, people think of an input as fertilizer, seed or pesticides, but I would throw machinery in there as well,” Schnitkey said. “I would recommend cutting back on all of them in 2016, particularly machinery and capital purchases. This is also a time to take a look at the rate you’re paying in cash rent.”

Continuing to test soil and apply fertilizer as needed based on results of the tests will be beneficial to farmers once commodity prices go back up.

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United Soybean Board 16305 Swingley Ridge Rd Chesterfield, MO 63017

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