Hello ReaderI’ve spent the past week or so exploring a bit of Washington and Oregon with the family. You know you’re in a moist environment when you see fungus growing on toadstools. The +/-10C temperatures with rain feels like a summer day compared to the -27C and cold blowing snow we had just a couple of weeks ago. My next stop is across the country to Niagara Falls, ON for the third module in my CTEAM course. I have some heavy homework to catch up on before then as I flesh out the strategic intents for our farm vision.
This week we’ll discuss some recent results on deep banding chicken manure, a practice that has generated some huge yield gains in sodic soils. Next, I’ll discuss the use of a new tool called CropCaster PRS and how I’m using it to do the economics on liming. Last, I’ll include a summary of the Canadian Total Excellence Agricultural Management program, CTEAM for short and why you should take the course.
Have a great week and Happy Thanksgiving to our American counterparts.
Deep banding manure transforms sodic soilsBack in February I sat in on a presentation by Dr. Peter Sale from LaTrobe University showing the results of deep banding organic amendments like alfalfa pellets, chicken manure and inorganic amendments like gypsum, sand and MAP to reclaim sodic soils. The products were banded with a deep ripper down to 30-40cm at rates of 10-20 T/ha (4-8 T/ac) on 32 inch row spacing. Over the course of 8 years they were able to generate a 60% yield increase in wheat, canola and faba beans. With millions of acres of sodic soils in Alberta, you can imagine why it caught my attention!
Fast forward to November 2014. I just recently came across results from a first year deep banding manure project showing another huge yield increase. In this trial near Ballan, Victoria they deep banded 20 T/ha of chicken manure at 40cm on 1M spacing. Canola yields went from 2.7 T/ha (48 bu/ac) to 4.5 T/ha 80 bu/ac! That’s a 66% yield increase in canola that matches the results they’ve found across their eight years of deep banding manure trials. Seriously, how else could you create these kinds of yield gains? At today’s canola prices, that’s a $300/ac increase in revenue or $750/ha for a $450/ac treatment or $1,100/ha.
I think we need to test this concept in Western Canada given the lasting and positive yield gains made through deep banding chicken manure in Australia. If you want to find out more about the details of this project go here. I know it sounds really “out there” but this kind of project seems like an excellent opportunity to bring in outside investment to create a land development project. Bring it down to a small scale and you can now optimize all those small, sodic areas that we’ve been wasting money and inputs driving around or seeding through and bring them back into production. SL
New tool to run economics on liming
PRS CropCasterOne of the most difficult parts of creating lime recommendations is calculating the return on investment across the duration of a crop rotation. With lime running $30.00/T and application rates at 1.5 T/ac, the costs do add up quickly. Unfortunately, the yield response from the addition of lime has been difficult to measure or model until now. I’ve been using the PRS CropCaster from Western Ag Global on a trial basis to see how their technology fits in my agronomy business and farm. One excellent feature is its ability to predict yield response from changes in soil pH.
The PRS CropCaster uses pH and nutrient response curves developed in Western Canada to calculate yield responses from changes in soil pH. The software allows you to adjust the pH of a given soil sample and you can physically watch the nutrient availability change along with the yield response. I’ve tested the model on my own farm to measure the economics of liming to see if it’s feasible and what the yield may look like should I decide to lime.
Steve’s quick math
Example: pH change from 5.1 to 6.5 from a 2 T/ac lime rate
Canola: 47.5 bu to 50 bu/ac or $23.75/ac
Wheat: 58 bu/ac to 62 bu/ac or $24.00/ac
Barley: 127 bu/ac to 136 bu/ac or $34.20/ac
Peas: 42 bu/ac to 45 bu/ac or $19.50/ac
Total revenue increase over 4-year rotation is $101.45
Cost of 2 T/ac x $30/T lime = $60.00/ac
ROI is $101.45 - $60.00/ac lime = $41.45 or 69%
In this simple example, a 2 T/ac lime rate would generate a 69% return, which sounds good but isn’t even a 1:1 ROI. The greatest response from lime would likely occur during a spell of dry years where acid soils have the greatest impact on yield. If a series of wet years occur after liming, I might not see a yield response on my farm.
Here’s what I’ve learned through the model:
- Wheat yields do not drop off sharply until they reach a pH below 5.0 with an optimum range between 5.7 and 7.2 pH.
- Canola yields do not drop off until they reach a pH below 5.0 with an optimum range between 5.6 and 7.0 pH.
- Barley yields do not drop off sharply until they reach a pH below 5.2 with an optimum range between 5.2 and 7.1 pH.
- Pea yields don’t start to drop off sharply until they reach a pH below 5.0 with an optimum range between 6.0 and 7.0 pH.
Take a look at the PRS CropCaster model here.
Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management: CTEAMNext week I’ll be attending my second CTEAM module in Niagara Falls, ON. The program called CTEAM is a series of one week courses across Canada that help farm businesses develop and implement strategic operations plans. The modules include strategic planning, operations management, succession planning and managing information systems.
To date I’ve connected with some great people who run what I consider excellent farm operations. If you’re in the market to help grow your farm business or yourself personally as a leader or manager of a farm business, I highly suggest you take this course. You can look it up here.