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Soil Testing Called A ‘Given’


In reviewing the results from the April Web Poll, it appears that soil testing (chosen by 62 percent of the respondents) is a “no-brainer” for most cotton farmers who are trying to manage their fertility programs efficiently.

Joe and Dianne Jenkins, Tennessee crop advisors who were featured in the September 2006 issue of Cotton Farming, said that if you have a drive to achieve a good nutritional balance in the soil, then you will have a better crop. However, it involves accepting change, which can be difficult for some people to do.

And for those who are skeptical when it comes to making changes, Joe pointed out, “If you do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always gotten.”

The Jenkinses also discussed the advantages of tissue sampling to determine whether the deficiency is something that can be corrected the following year and not necessarily right now. And, of course, don’t forget about the cost factor involved.

“Sometimes we can save farmers hundreds of dollars by taking a tissue test,” Joe said.

Following “soil testing,” the next most popular choice to help contain fertilizer costs is to buy fertilizer and use variable rate technology to apply it, according to 22 percent of the Web Poll respondents. Seven percent say they intend to plant legume cover crops, and three percent are going to use chicken litter.

No matter how you vote, we appreciate everyone’s participation in Cotton Farming’s monthly Web Poll. Don’t forget, you also can share your thoughts on the current topic in the “Comments” section.

Following is a sampling of the comments we received from people who voted in the April Web Poll.

• “All of these ideas have potential for helping with fertilizer costs, but soil testing should be the basis of any fertilizer program. One idea that you did not include is that of fertilizer placement, or ‘banding’ fertilizer near the plants. This method has been shown to increase fertilizer efficiency quite a lot, making it possible [to achieve] at least some rate reduction without yield reduction.”

• “Leaf petiole testing would be another key element in evaluating nutrient applications both at layby and later.”

• “Variable rate application should require soil testing.”

• “We soil sample every year, but right now you could steal the fertilizer and the seed and still lose money growing cotton!!”

• “Some way must be found to negotiate reasonable fertilizer costs.”

• “Plant a bunch of soybeans without herbicide technology. Then ‘spray and pray’ just like the olden times.”

• “I think soil testing at least every other year should be a given. Variable rate applications may save [money] for a year or two, but not after that. I have more low yields because of under fertilizing than with over application.”

• “I will soil test, then use as much chicken litter as I can get. About half of my cotton land is high in fertility, so we are only using urea this year, hoping fertilizer prices will improve by next year.”

In our June Web Poll, we are asking our readers whether they plan to stay with the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment (DCP) Program or sign up for the new ACRE Program.

Please cast your vote, then explain the reason for your choice in the “Comments” section.

To participate in this month’s Web Poll, go online at www.cottonfarming.com. The results of the June poll will be reported in the Cotton Farming August issue.

Web Poll Results

In April, we asked: If you are trying to contain fertilizer costs, which would be most helpful to your operation and why?

• Soil testing — 62 %
• Plant legume cover crops — 7 %
• Use chicken litter — 3 %
• Buy fertilizer and use variable rate technology to apply it — 22 %

June Web Poll Question

Do you plan to stay with the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment (DCP) Program or sign up for the new ACRE Program? Please explain in the Web Poll “Comments” section.

(1) Stay with DCP
(2) Sign up for ACRE

Register your vote at www.cottonfarming.com.

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