22 Jan High Cost for High Yields
2013 brought big yields to farmers across the Canadian Prairies. By the end of the year, grain bins were almost literally bursting at the seams. Some farms had such high outputs that they were unable to find storage for their entire crop, and were forced to simply store it on the ground. High yields are the ultimate goal of every farmer, but they usually come at a cost.
Soil scientist Rigas Karamanos of Calgary, Alberta points out that in order for crops to produce those bin-busting yields, they need to draw heavily from the nutrients available in the soil. Karamanos developed a system to estimate nutrient from soils that essentially works like a chequebook, looking at what goes into and out of the soil, then calculating the difference. For example, when looking at a variety of factors, Karamanos estimates that Canadian Prairie farmers had a net loss of 30 lbs of nitrogen per acre in 2013. These estimates aren’t perfect, but they do demonstrate the heavy use of nutrients by crops.
As crops continue to require greater amounts of nutrients to meet yield demands, strict management of those nutrients becomes important. Being able to get the most out of what’s available in the soil without depleting it for future years is important for growers to be able to sustain their operations for many years. Nitrogen can be replaced through fertilizer applications. It can also be fixed naturally by legume crops, especially those treated with a premium seed inoculant. Higher yielding crops will continue to demand greater nutrition, but with proper management, it’s possible for farmers to provide them for many years.
Image source: XiteBio Technologies Inc.