What yield does your soil support?
Today, during a meeting with a company that I will be testing their new technologies, this headline topic came up. As a nutritionist, I am very aware of diet formulations and if there is not enough energy, protein and minerals in the diet, the diet will only support so much milk or meat production. For the crop farmers out there, some people live in areas that only grow 30 bushel per acre soybeans or 125 bushel per acre corn. No matter the location you live or the soil types you have, how you manage your soil will determine current as well as future yields.
This topic is another reason I want everyone to take a soil test before you plant. If your soil pH is low, no matter what you plant, your will have reduced yields and poor forage health. If your soil is low in organic matter you will have poor water infiltration and moisture holding capacity. You will have poor soil structure and compaction issues which limit production. If your soil requires 100 units of potassium and your only putting down 25-50, then you can't expect close to maximum yields. If your nitrogen and phosphorous levels are low and your not putting in the correct units of each via fertilizer, then you will also see poor growth, stunted growth or will be leaving a lot on the table.
If your soil has poor or low microbial populations, your not going to get efficient growth. The soil is full of living organisms and if your not trying to populate and grow a healthy soil environment, then your yields will drag. If your using a lot of chemicals like roundup (glyphosate) and are not adding soil builders back into the soil, your soil structure will be affected.
If your not keeping organic matter and other residues on top of the ground, your going to experience issues like top soil runoff. Once your healthy top soil is gone and your down to the subsoil, your going to have a hard time achieving a decent crop. Cover crops are being used more and more by crop farmers. Some of these cover crops sequester nutrients,add organic matter, fixate nitrogen and give off soil exudates and other weed inhibiting properties.
My March 2016 newsletter will cover this topic more in depth. Instead of, "whats the best mix i can plant for deer," how about answer this question. What should i plant and how should i fertilizer to maximize what i currently have before me. Think long term. If your "mining the soil" and not giving back, your short term success will come as a price that will show up next year or a few years down the road. Once a soil is "mined", it gets very costly or next to impossible to get it back to productive health.