Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Focus on These Two Things, Cut Costs Elsewhere

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, University of Kentucky

Farmers are looking where to cut production budgets for 2015. Three of my colleagues and I were honored to speak at the National Commodity Classic this year. During our presentation, one of my colleagues closed out our session by saying that the two things farmers need to do is: 1) use appropriate soil-applied fertilizers based on soil tests; and 2) use highly effective weed control, which probably includes a soil residual herbicide. All of us in the room agreed that these are probably the two things many farmers will cut in 2015.

A representative soil test is our best indicator for what the field needs to produce soybeans. If a soil is deficient, lime and soil-applied fertilizers based on a soil test help insure that soybeans will not lack for nutrients. On the flip side, a soil test may indicate that no additional fertilizer is needed in a particular field. If a soil test suggests no fertilizer needed, then that guideline results in huge savings without impacting yield.

Weeds are one of the major things that reduce soybean yields each year. In a year like 2015, some producers will be tempted to try to sneak by with a single postemergence herbicide timing. They may be tempted to let some weeds get big so that others will germinate and all can be controlled with a single pass. This practice almost always costs more in yield loss than what was spent on a second herbicide application. Getting weeds removed BEFORE they compete with the soybean crop will help maintain high yield potential. In addition, letting some weeds escape this year only results in more problems next year.

So, farmers should focus on adequate fertility based on a representative soil test and excellent weed control. Both are critical to high yields. There are plenty of other places where a producer can save a few dollars in 2015 production costs.

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