Forage Seminar will be in Cross Plains Jan. 25

Brownwood Bulletin
Scott Anderson

Forage Seminar will be held on Jan. 25 at the First Baptist Church in Cross Plains. This annual event has become one of the premier educational programs concerning forage production and hay in our region. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the program will start at 9 a.m.

Five CEU by the Texas Department of Agriculture will be offered at the Forage Seminar. Topics will include:

· Ways of Controlling Flies on Cattle

· Herbicide Update and Technology

· Control of Sugar Cane Aphids by variety selection of Sudan Grasses

· Control of Sandbur in Coastal and Native Pastures

· Laws and Regs

Pre-register by calling the AgriLife Extension office in Callahan County at 325-854-5835, Brown County at 325-646-0386 or Coleman County at 325-625-4519. Fees are due upon arrival and include a catered noon meal. Cost for the program is $30 if preregistered by Jan. 18, 2022, $35 after the 18th.

January is ideal to soil test

Farmers across Texas are familiar with standard soil testing procedures and many make use of soil tests to determine fertilizer applications for a wide range of crops and soil types. You have likely been encouraged to soil test annually and “Don’t Guess — Soil Test” to better pinpoint your soil fertility program.

Overall soil testing information from Texas A&M is found at soiltesting.tamu.edu. Included is instructions on how to sample, what types of test you can choose to meet your needs (basic nutrients and pH vs. a complete analysis of nutrients, organic matter, salts, etc.). Prices are listed as well. Furthermore, discounts are available for a variety of tests when groups of eight or more samples are submitted at the same time for the same test.

Information is also available for testing of forages, plant tissues, water, and biosolids.

Here are some additional considerations to help you capture more value from soil test results.

1) There are different philosophies of soil testing. Producers regularly comment that they sent the same sample to two different labs and received different recommendations. Why? There are several reasons.

First, there are two components to soil testing and recommendations. On one hand, there is the specific test method that is used. This includes how the nutrients are extracted from the soil and what method is used to analyze the nutrient. These may not be the same between two labs. On the other hand, an individual lab may have a different basis for what they recommend based on both the measured nutrient value and your goals.

The two primary philosophies of soil testing are generally “provide the nutrients needed for the current crop” vs. “build and maintain,” or let’s increase the background residual fertility.

The former is more likely the approach taken by public (university) soil test labs, which are expected to base soil test recommendations on years of field validation trials for different crops across a range of soil types. Private labs likely use a similar basis for gauging crop nutrient requirements (and very well may use the university data) but may be more inclined to recommend a higher level of fertilization for some nutrients to increase the background level of fertility. (This is most commonly associated with P and K; we do not “build” soil nitrogen, or N, which is relatively mobile in the soil when applied or converted to the nitrate form; any build-and-maintain approach for nitrogen generally involves the application of compost, manure, etc. where N release occurs over a couple of years).

In general, both philosophies should include a yield goal and consider existing residual soil fertility that is available to your next crop. You know that build-and-maintain may cost a little more, but if it reflects your goals, then this is acceptable additional expense.

2) Who soil samples your field and makes your recommendations?

Particularly for large farms, producers may rely on a crop consultant or the fertilizer dealer themselves to conduct soil sampling on your different fields. Ensure they are taking representative samples for each sampling unit or field (at least one probe point per 4 acres, preferably 1 per 2 acres especially for smaller sampling areas). Also, if the individual who conducts soil sampling may not be familiar with different soil types or other production zones in your field (good areas, poor areas) that you observe, let them know so they can sample accordingly and not commingle soil samples from potentially different management zones.

Ask what soil test lab the consultant or fertilizer dealer uses. Even if you are not charged for the soil tests (part of the consultant’s fee or you are expected to purchase your fertilizer from that dealer), you should inquire who is conducting the test and understand what the recommendations might be. Also, since you did not submit the soil test reports, were they returned to you with recommendations based on your yield goals? What are your yield goals? If you have been working with a consultant for many years, they may already know your target yield goals for individual fields based on experience.

3) Be alert for possible conflicts of interest.

You know this, and it should go without saying. But if someone is doing your soil sampling for you, handles soil testing and recommendations, and you buy your fertilizer from them, this is a potential conflict of interest. Just so you know, regardless of the level of trust you may have.

Texas A&M AgriLife does not currently recommend deeper soil sampling for general soil nutrient analysis, though we acknowledge it would provide more information to better pinpoint fertilizer recommendations. We do recommend, however, greater attention to soil nitrate-N below 6". Thus, the Texas A&M Soil Test Lab now provides a “Profile N” soil test form (see http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/files/profilesoil.pdf). To use this approach, you collect your standard soil sample (likely a 6” depth) which is analyzed for basic nutrients and any additional tests. A companion soil sample is collected at the same point beginning at 6” then deeper into the soil. On the form (Fig. 1) you mark the depth of the subsoil sample as 6-12”, 6-18”, or 6-24”. This sample is analyzed inexpensively for nitrate-N only, and it is credited to your crop requirement.

5) Do you use a soil test lab that is out of state?

If so, how do we know their soil fertility recommendations are appropriate for your farm? Nebraska soil test and fertility recommendations may be appropriate for corn there, but what about for a Texas field? What if you send soil test samples for cotton to Nebraska where cotton is not grown? So how do they make recommendations for cotton? (Do they get data from decades of Texas soil fertility research for cotton and place in their database?). States outside of Texas may even use a different soil test method for some nutrients that is not appropriate for some Texas soil types.

Texas A&M posts online numerous charts for N, P, and K that also reflect a yield goal. This is done for the major crops of cotton, corn, grain sorghum, wheat, winter canola, and a few forage crops. You may view these charts at soiltesting.tamu.edu/webpages/recommendations.html.

The standard soil test through the Texas A&M University soil test lab costs $12 per sample.