Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Soil tests - "improving the soil"

One thing that just about every farmer claims to want to do is to improve the health of the soil.  I'm going to post the soil tests I ran this year, and I'll come back to them about this time next year with a new set of soil tests.  

This isn't really for the blog; it's more a diary entry so that I can easily find these reports and compare them.  But you're welcome to look at the soil tests if you're curious, and i've written some commentary about each field to provide a little context.  

When I do a soil test I tell the company what I want to do with the land in the coming year; so these tests reflect what they suggest I change/add from where the field is now to something that might work better for what I'm after this year.   the red circles are the primary things that I need to add.  You'll notice quite a bit of variation in the field needs.  

Existing alfalfa field
The report above is a stand of alfalfa that I seeded last year; i got 4 cuttings off it it, and the forage tested well.  This field has been planted with conventional corn for the 3 years prior to my purchase of the property, prior to that was used as pasture for a dairy.  The test came back reccomending quite a bit of amendment, which surprised me; it did pretty well, but apparently could do a lot better.  So I ordered half the amount of fertilizer, and I'll fertilize half the field, and leave half about what it is, and see what the difference is in yield and forage.  

the 2014 silage corn field
The report above is the field is where I produced the silage corn we chopped last year.  it only requires a little bit of sulfur input, everything else looks good, which is a relief.  This has been seeded with alfalfa and we'll get a first cutting off of it sometime in july probably .  

The bottom half of this years corn field
 The report above is new acreage that I'm farming owned by a neighbor.  it's been used as a hay field for at least 10 years, and has never been tested to my knowlege or fertilized.  So it's had a lot taken off of it, but nothing put back in.  It did have some grass on it, but was more than 50% weeds.  Limed it and planted corn there with fertilizer applied by corn planter.  .

This is the field I wrote about earlier, "worst field"
 managed as a hay field for at least 10 years, never tested, no fertilizer.  Limed it and planted corn with fertlizer applied during corn planting.

This years squash field; pumpkins and acorn squash
The field above was an area that I planted with pig forage (grass, alfalfa, tillage radishes) but I wasn't happy with it, so I tilled and am replanting with squash for this growing season.  At the end of the growing season I'll probably put in winter wheat or barley or other small-grain.  

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