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Higher profits are in the soil for corn, soybean growers

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One of my favorite cost-cutting stories comes from Ed Hegland, whose fuel supplier thought he’d switched suppliers in 2008. Actually the Appleton, Minn., grower had just switched to strip-till, “cutting our fuel use roughly in half,” he says.

Without a yield hit, strip-till saved trips and fuel, but also downsized tractor horsepower and reduced fertilizer use through more precise application. And no dip in yields.

University of Illinois 2006 figures show a 23% in fuel, machinery, implements and labor from reduced tillage. 

As we mark another Earth Day, tiny soil microbes improve crops’ fuel efficiency, too. Your crop changes sunlight to fuel (soil carbon), which builds the machine (plant material and roots) that creates crops.

You might say that soil is the original green machine. Working with the Earth’s soil microbes saves you a lot of money. At no cost, soil’s tiny, underground critters convert sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and crop residue into crop income. They are out of our sight, but too vital to ignore. Just as you control weeds and fertilize soil to optimize field environment aboveground, you can work with soil microorganisms underground to speed their conversion of residue into plant-available forms of energy (carbon), N, P and other key nutrients.

For example, P fertilizer may become chemically unavailable before the plant can absorb it, and soil microbes make it available through the growing season by unlocking chemical bonds.

Beneficial soil fungi form a soil glue, glomalin, that creates small soil chunks, or aggregates. This occurs in soil organic matter, a key indicator of soil health, and the result of conservation farming practices like reduced tillage and residue preservation.

These soil aggregates, or building blocks, form key soil highways for efficient transport and storage of soil moisture, gases and nutrients. In droughts and floods, these highways vastly improve the drainage and efficient storage of vital soil moisture. Read what the experts say about this.

The bottom line is that working with soil microorganisms improves crops’ fuel efficiency to produce your crop. 

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on Jun 26, 2014

When it comes to learning as long as you are trying your best for something that we should all be learning through. - Ellerslie Mission Society

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