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ISU Professor urges soil testing and cover crops to counter fertilizer challenges in 2022

ISU Agronomy Professor Michael Castellano (Courtesy of 4R Plus)

We have been hearing increased talk about fertilizers, especially nitrogen, and the situation we made find ourselves in for 2022. This could result in a shift in soybean acres or could mean that farmers need to change their approach on their operations. There are many options to weigh. All of it comes down to first finding out the needs of your soil. And what you can do to meet those needs.

Michael Castellano is an Agronomy Professor at Iowa State University. He says that plant use is just one way nitrogen leaves our ground. It can also disappear from leaching into waterways and de-nitrification into the air. However, in the dry years, we see fewer environmental losses. This means more of the nitrogen is leaving through plants, but the plants are also returning it to the ground.

Castellano says that farmers need to be getting soil tests done this year because they need to really take a solid inventory of how much nitrogen they really need to be applying ahead of the 2022 growing season.

Castellano also advocates for the use of cover crops to be used over winter. These plants can help maintain the nitrogen levels in the soil, so they are still there come planting season.

The situation we seem to be facing this coming year, shows us looking at a tight supply of fertilizers and a higher input cost. This means there are a lot more economic benefits from nitrification inhibitors.

Castellano says that some farmers might think that cover crops are not a feasible option due to their number of growing da ys. Castellano says that there are options available for any operation, it is about getting in touch with an agronomist. Someone that can help you capture and hold on to the nitrogen you already have.

Castellano reiterates that this is an option to improve both the bottom line of your operation as well as the environment around you. It is not often that Mother Nature provides an abundance of nitrogen for the next growing year. So why waste your valuable input dollars to buy something you may not need, or at least not need as much. Castellano encourages farmers to get those in-depth soil tests to save money later on.

You can find more information available on the Iowa State Extension Services website.