April 11, 2017
Healthy Soil, Healthy Yields
Is your soil healthy
Many agronomy publications talk about soil health, fertility, soil management, and natural additives to improve soil health," said Craig Gustafson, Federated's eastern division agronomy manager, but what is healthy soil?
To understand what makes soil healthy, it's necessary to understand what destroys soil health. "That could be a long list of possibilities," said Gustafson, and he went on to describe what can improve soil health:
  1. Tillage. While working the soil is important, don't overwork it. Multiple tillage trips across the field in the spring disrupts soil microbes. These are living organisms that make nutrients available to your crop, which translates into yield. Overworking the soil also increases the possibility of erosion and soil loss, reduces water holding capacity, and increases the possibility of compaction.
  2. Soil Acidity (or pH). Acidic soils are like battery acid; living organisms cannot survive inside a battery. Such is your soil; beneficial soil microbes cannot survive in acidic soil conditions. The loss of soil microbes means a loss of the natural mode of transportation for crop nutrients to the plant roots. When this take place, soil health is reduced and so is yield. The addition of a high-quality ag lime will sweeten the soil.
Soil health is measured through a soil health test. Gustafson offered an example from his own farm in Osceola, WI. He pulled a five-acre composite soil sample in the fall of 2015. "The last time this field was tilled was 1999, and it has been in a corn and soybean rotation. [The soil health test] looks just like a normal soil test with the addition of what is called a Soil BRAN test. This is the measurement of biological respiration and nitrification." (See attached soil health assessment from Midwest Laboratories.)
So then, Gustafson mused, "What do I do with the information? Great question." He continued, "Soil health testing is relatively a new tool in the tool box, and we are still learning how to interpret the results. Next step would be to resample this area in the fall of 2018 and compare." Healthy soil is undeniably the best soil.
For further information regarding soil health, contact your nearest Federated Agronomist and discuss crop management options to improve soil health.
"And," Gustafson added, "think safety this spring as the planting season arrives." 
Nutrition is Essential. MicroEssentials ® Makes it Easy.
Crop nutrition is made easier with MicroEssentials®. "Everything is all in one pellet," said Ron Paulson, manager of Federated's Isanti location. MicroEssentials, by Mosaic®, is a starter fertilizer that combines all the nutrients in one granule -- which, as Paulson put it, "is the whole deal that delivers uniform nutrient distribution."

The traditional method of adding sulfur, phosphorous, and zinc to starter fertilizer doesn't ensure that nutrients are evenly spread across the field, but MicroEssentials solves that problem with a patented Fusion® technology (see video below).

Microessentials fusion technology

MicroEssentials contains 12% nitrogen, 40% phosphorus, 10% sulfur, and 1% zinc. It includes two forms of sulfur, both the quick-acting sulfate that plants need early, and the long-lasting elemental sulfur that won't be gone with the first heavy rains (especially in sandy soils).

Paulson noted that "MicroEssentials offers a yield advantage, too," based on field testing. It's crop nutrition for the 21st century that works. Contact your Federated Agronomist to learn more.
Evaluate Alfalfa Stands Early
Getting out in the alfalfa fields early offers the best opportunity to evaluate the stand. Look for winterkill now so that remedies can be put in place yet this spring.
Duane Droogsma, Federated Agronomist at the Rush City location, defined how to evaluate the stand:
  • Are there at least five healthy plants per square foot?
  • Are there 10-15 healthy shoots or buds per plant?
  • Dig down; do the roots look healthy? (Roots that are gray and water-soaked, or brown, dehydrated, and stringy are indicators of winter kill.)
If 50% or more of a field shows signs of damage, it's time to discuss remedies, such as rotating into corn or soybeans. And, whether damaged or healthy, it's important to fertilizer alfalfa annually with potash (boron and some form of sulfur), Droogsma said.
Talk to your Federated Agronomist with any alfalfa questions or concerns. View this fact sheet for additional info.
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treated seeds
Call Ahead for Seed Treatment
Federated's state-of-the-art seed treatment facility in Ogilvie is up and running with:
  • storage space for 14,000 units of soybeans;
  • the ability to treat seed with two products without down time for line changes or cleaning;
  • two bulk delivery trucks ready to head to the farms.
From the grower's end, one simple phone call will help the process -- and, ideally, that call will be made within 48 hours of need. "If we are given notice in advance, we can have the seed there [on their farm], treated, and ready to go out when they need it. [Growers] can transition from corn to beans, or variety to variety, without having to wait on us," said Cody Lezer, Federated's central warehouse manager at Ogilvie.

Contact your Federated Agronomist with seed orders -- and seed treatment needs -- to help us help you in the timeliest and most efficient manner. "It will be easier . . . to make plans and have a successful spring," said Lezer. 
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