Soil testing makes sense

Testing soil samples for nutrient levels and soybean cyst nematodes can provide positive rewards both financially and environmentally.

With corn prices today, it makes even more sense to soil test. Fertilizer prices are a big part of the cost of production. Nutrient availability is a key part of crop growth and yields. A common problem that seems to sneak up on some producers is poor crop growth due to soil pH levels. Low pH will stunt crop growth due to aluminum and iron toxicity or magnesium deficiency. A high pH can tie up both zinc and manganese. Michigan soils generally have adequate phosphorous levels, but may be somewhat lacking in potassium. Every field is different and guessing with general fertilizer recommendations can be very costly.

A soil test allows you to identify what nutrients in the soil are lacking and what are in excess. A good soil fertility program is one that takes into account the available soil nutrients and adds additional nutrients to reach desired yield goals. Too much fertilizer can be a financial burden as well as an environmental risk. Following a fertilizer recommendation based on a good soil test results in a fertilizer program that is agronomically productive, financially sound and environmentally safe.

A bonus that producers can take advantage of from their soil sample is an additional test for the soybean cyst nematode. Soil samples can be split when they are collected. One half of the sample can be air dried and sent to the soil test lab. The other half can be kept moist and sent to the nematode lab. The cost for soybean cyst nematode test is paid for by the Soybean Check-off program. The soybean cyst nematode is another problem, catching producers by surprise. In many fields, the problem is not apparent, but the yield loss could be over 10 to 15 bushels. Do not wait until large areas of soybeans die in your field. Test for nematodes and put preventative yield loss strategies into action.

For more information on soil sampling procedures or recommendations, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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