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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Do you know what’s in your soil?

Thirty eight farmers and industry professionals attended Penn State Extension’s Soil Fertility Workshop in Harrison Valley on December 20, 2016. What did the attendees have to say? Many complimented Dr. Doug Beegle, Penn State Extension Soil Specialist and Professor of Agronomy for sharing his in-depth knowledge of soil testing, crop production and fertilizer management.

Perhaps the most talked about concept after the workshop was Dr. Beegle’s presentation on “Tips for Economic Fertility Management.” During this session, he advised farmers on where they can cut costs in their fertility programs. Dr. Beegle advised, “take advantage of all sources of nutrients.” Your cheapest fertilizer is often lime and manure.

First, soil test to be sure you are not wasting money on unneeded fertilizer.

Second, lime according to your soil test. Potter County has one of the highest acidity levels in the state, with most soil samples, coming in below optimum and 40% having a pH of 6.0 or lower. A pH this low causes the potential for lower yields and poor root development. Nicole Carutis, local Penn State Extension Field and Forage Crops Educator, cites “low pH as a primary cause of hay, bank stabilization and lawn seeding failures” in the area.

Third, value your manure. For example, one ton of broiler manure may provide $64.05 of nutrients. If your ground only needs nitrogen, than the real value is only $27.65. If broiler manure costs $20/ton at auction and $13/ton to haul, is this the most economical source of nutrients for your farm? In addition to manure, “many farmers fail to add in a nitrogen credit for legumes,” added Dr. Beegle, “a 50% stand of alfalfa can provide 110 pounds of N on moderately productive soil.” That is almost half of the need for a good corn crop.

Interested in learning more about what’s in your soil? Contact Penn State Extension in Potter County at 814-274-8540, visit us at Another Soil Fertility Workshop for farmers will be held March 28, 2017 in McKean County. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research and extension programs are funded in part by Pennsylvania counties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional funding provided by the Potter County Conservation District.

Photos by Nicole Carutis, Penn State Extension Educator

Photo by Rob Thompson, Potter County Conservation District