Soil nutrients from livestock manure are valuable, use them wisely
Fertilizer prices have increased dramatically over the last decade. Soil fertility is a critical factor affecting yield potential. Nutrients should be spread evenly over fields, rather than allow nutrients to build to high levels on a few fields.
Soil nutrient levels are frequently at high levels near livestock housing facilities, while nutrient levels are lower farther from the barn. In these instances, livestock producers are not using their manure nutrients as effectively as they could considering fertilizer prices have risen over the last decade and are a major expense in crop and forage production.
Farmers who have fields with low in soil nutrient levels should take the efforts to apply manure on fields that need those nutrients. Overloading soil nutrients is an inefficient use of resources and reduces profitability. Fertilizer costs can be prohibitive and farmers should handle manure nutrients as a valuable resource.
If soil nutrient levels are low, farmers should develop strategies to best utilize manure nutrients to improve fertility and productivity. Building nutrient levels to moderate or mid-range offers a greater chance to increase yield potential. Soils with moderate nutrient levels have higher yield potential than soils with low nutrient levels. Simply applying more fertilizer on low nutrient soils doesn’t translate into yields rivaling those with moderate to high nutrient levels. This is the reason that Michigan State University soil test recommendations on low nutrient soils call for applying more fertilizer than the crop will use that year, to build soil nutrient levels into the moderate range.
Applying lime to soils with low pH will make nutrients in the soil more readily available to growing plants. Soils that are more acidic and have low cation exchange capacity (indicating higher nutrient leaching probability) require an over fertilization to achieve similar plant nutrient uptake as compared to soils that have a more neutral pH and high cation exchange capacity. Applying lime to soil test recommendations will improve plant nutrient uptake and increase yield potential. Lime should be incorporated into the soil profile. In instances of using no-till, pasture or hay fields, lime should be at a rate of no more than one ton per acre annually. Applying lime at this rate onto fields that will not be tilled, will neutralize soil in the top two inches of the soil profile.
Fertilizer is expensive. Proper management of nutrients can greatly reduce cost of production and increase profitability. For more information contact Frank Wardynski, Michigan State University, Ruminant Educator, 906-884-4386.