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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 1999-2001
1 Fluid Journal Fall 1999 The first essential in fertility/ tillage management is to develop a plan. Any business can function more efficiently by following an overall plan. While most farmers have a mental image of what they want to do, few commit their management plan to a written outline. With goals and available resources in mind, a management plan should be developed that will make best use of the resources in achieving those goals. The resources available, particularly finances, may determine the rate at which one can work toward the goals, but in most cases the goals themselves should not be affected. This is an important step. It will help to evaluate the practices being used and can serve as the basis for improved record keeping for the operation. Such plans and records, along with expected agronomic effects of the practices used, can then be evaluated through economic analysis. Another essential step in evaluation of any management plan is economic analysis of the options available. This usually requires a detailed budget preparation and comparison of the options of tillage, fertilizer application, and other inputs with concurrent analysis of yield and income variations of the different scenarios. Budget analysis software allows the farmer to analyze a range of options in a short time, providing more information on which to base his management decisions. What follows is an overview of the range of resources, elements, and goals FFF Review Fertility/tillage Management System Takes Planning Designing a fertility/tillage management system requires an understanding of the resources available. that must be considered or understood when developing a sound fertility/ tillage management system. Soil The soil on a farm will often determine which type of tillage system is best suited. Local soil survey information identifies potentials and limitations of various soil types and should be used in developing the systems. Soil scientists in universities, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and USDA have developed rating systems for adaptability of tillage and planting systems to different soil types. These ratings consider such factors as soil texture, water-holding capacity, and slope. They are an excellent general guide for determining whether a change in tillage system might be advisable on a given farm. Knowledge of soil characteristics is also important in decisions relative to fertilizer placement and timing. Sandy soils often require more frequent nutrient applications because cation exchange capacity (CEC) is usually low and nutrients are more easily leached below the root zone. On soils with very low CEC, potassium (K) applications may be needed annually rather than attempting to build up soil test levels. Nitrogen (N) should be applied as close to the time of uptake as possible on such soils. Split N application maybe more efficient than a one-time application. Silt loams are generally the most productive soils and provide the widest range of options for tillage and fertility management systems. They have a relatively high water-holding capacity, good nutrient storage, and are easily worked under a wider range of moisture conditions. Clay/clay loams have higher nutrient and water-holding capacities, but they are more subject to physical limitations due to moisture conditions during tillage. They are also more easily compacted under normal field operations. Crop residues from high- yield management can help improve the tilth of these soils by increasing aggregation of the clay particles into stronger structural units, allowing for better aeration, water movement and root penetration. Organic soils are more easily managed, have high water-holding capacity, and high CEC, but they are often low in K and some micronutrients. To meet crop demand, higher soil test levels will usually have to be maintained than for mineral soils. Alkaline soils (pH above 7.0) require special attention to P management. Placement of P in a band and/or in combination with ammonium- N fertilizers will help improve P efficiency on low P-testing soils. It may be more efficient to apply P fertilizer more often on these soils to ensure adequate supplies for the crop. Soil testing/plant analysis are essential for a good fertility and tillage management system. A good soil testing plan should be developed to provide information on each field at least every two to three years. In a buildup or intensive management situation, or where crops are irrigated, annual soil tests can help monitor
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