Soil Fertility Management
Crops grown in soils with optimum nutrient levels result in healthier crops and higher yields than those grown in soils with inadequate or excessive nutrient levels. A soil test is a simple way of identifying your soil fertility levels. Understanding those soil test results and deciding what actions to take to bring your soil fertility to a healthy level can sometimes be more complicated, particularly when utilizing organic fertility sources. Conventional fertilizers are often quickly available to the crop and can be applied in smaller quantities due to the higher concentration of nutrients per lb. of fertilizer, while organic nutrient sources are more slowly available to plants and generally have smaller concentrations of nutrients per lb. of fertilizer. On the other hand, organic fertility sources often add organic matter to the soil and feed soil microbial life, while chemical fertilizers do not. Due to the dramatic differences between these two systems, calculations, applications methods and over all management of these two general types of fertility sources should be handled differently. The below resources are designed to help understand soil test results and how to apply the different types of fertility sources in response to those soil test results, in turn creating the ideal soil fertility conditions for healthy crop production.
- University of Maine Soil Testing Service
- eOrganic: This article explains the various organic fertility sources and best use practices, along with soil management practices for soil health and fertility.
- Virginia Tech: An overview on selecting conventional fertilizer type, timing, and method for application.
- Texas A&M: Wondering how to convert those soil test results into amounts of fertilizer? This calculator makes it simple.
- Oregon State University: This tool streamlines calculating and keeping records of organic fertilizer sources. The Estimating Plant Available Nitrogen Release from Cover Crops (PDF) tab gives you step-by-step instructions on quantifying the N credit from your cover crop.