Active carbon (POXC): What does it measure?

Carbon is the currency of nature: the backbone of soil organic matter and the energy source for soil microorganisms. Therefore, much interest in soil health focuses on increasing carbon storage in soil. When you reduce tillage or increase crop rotation diversity, you expect soil organic matter to increase. However, soil organic matter often changes slowly […]

Uffda, that’s a lot of potash!

Question: Can you really change the %K base cation saturation ratio? This winter, we have gotten more questions from farmers asking about the base cation saturation ratio (BSCR) concept. The farmers had attended a series of meetings where the speakers encouraged farmers increase the %K saturation in their soils and apply high potassium fertilizer rates […]

Soil aggregate stability: What does it measure?

Soil aggregates are the building blocks of soil structure. Soil texture is the relative percentage of sand, silt, and clay in soil, but soil structure describes how those particles are arranged in the soil profile. Soil aggregates are glued together with soil organic matter, plant root exudates, and microorganisms like fungi. We classify soil aggregates […]

Starter Fertilizer Display: How low can YOU go?

When profits are squeezed, more farmers are asking about optimal starter fertilizer rates and how low starter fertilizer rates can be. These questions are the result of wanting to keep fertilizer costs down, to plant as many acres per day as possible, and to take advantage of more efficient, lower rates of banded phosphorus fertilizer […]

Adjusting low soil pH with sugar beet-processing spent lime

The sugar beet processing industry uses large quantities of fine-ground, high-grade calcium carbonate (lime) to purify sucrose in the sugar extraction process. The by-product spent lime retains high reactivity and purity, making an attractive liming material for acidic soils. Application of spent lime is a common practice through the sugar beet producing areas of the […]

High soil pH and calcium carbonate inflate base cation saturation and cation exchange capacity (CEC)

Soil pH is a soil chemical property that measures soil acidity or alkalinity, and it affects many soil chemical and biological activities. Soils of the northern Great Plains and Canadian Prairies often have high soil pH (>7.3) and contain calcium carbonate (free lime) at or near the soil surface. It is the calcium carbonate in […]

The Meaning of Soil Health Testing and the Big Picture

This submission is courtesy of Dr. Caley Gasch, Assistant Professor of Soil Health, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND. It was originally published in the AGVISE Newsletter Winter 2017. Multiple definitions of “soil health” exist. In general, they all recognize that soil is a complex system, with interacting physical, chemical, and biological factors, which should […]

Soil Testing Right Behind the Combine

This submission is courtesy of Dr. David Franzen, Extension Soil Specialist, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND. It was originally published in the AGVISE Newsletter Fall 2019. It is more the rule than the exception that soil sampling begins in mid-September, rather than starting immediately following small grain harvest. However, many producers miss an excellent […]

Adjusting high soil pH with elemental sulfur

Soil pH is a soil chemical property that measures soil acidity or alkalinity, and it affects many soil chemical and biological activities. Soils with high pH can reduce the availability of certain nutrients, such as phosphorus and zinc. Soils of the northern Great Plains and Canadian Prairies often have high soil pH (>7.3) and contain […]

Soil Salinity Analysis: Which method to choose?

This submission is courtesy of Dr. Heather Matthees, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Morris, MN. It was originally published in the AGVISE Newsletter Fall 2017. Salt-affected soils are a major problem for agricultural producers, resulting in $12 billion annual losses in crop production across the world. In the northern Great Plains and Canadian Prairies, soil salinity […]

Estimating soil texture with cation exchange capacity (CEC)

Soil texture is a basic physical soil property that describes the proportion of sand-, silt-, and clay-sized particles in soil. It controls the ability of soil to retain water and nutrients and the movement of water and nutrients through the soil profile. Soil texture is a fundamental soil property, but measuring soil texture requires time-consuming […]

Fertilizing grass lawn

A productive and lush lawn requires some fertilizer every now and then. The major plant nutrients required for grass lawn are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Nitrogen is the nutrient required in the largest amount, although too much nitrogen can create other problems. A general rate of one (1) pound nitrogen per 1,000 […]

Split the Risk with In-season Nitrogen

For some farmers, applying fertilizer in the fall is a standard practice. You can often take advantage of lower fertilizer prices, reduce the spring workload, and guarantee that fertilizer is applied before planting. As you work on developing your crop nutrition plan, you may want to consider saving a portion of the nitrogen budget for […]

AGVISE Potato Petiole Analysis: Informative, Accessible, and Easy-to-Understand Reports

Irrigated potato production is an intensive cropping system. It requires proactive labor, critical decision-making tools, and well-timed nutrient management. There is a fine line between supplying adequate plant nutrition and applying too much, which could cause potato tuber defects like mishappen tubers or hollow heart, reducing the marketable potato yield. Before seed potatoes go in […]

Soil Science Review: Soil pH, Acidity, and Alkalinity

Soil pH is a basic soil property that affects many biological and chemical processes in soil. Simply knowing if a soil is acidic or alkaline can tell us a lot about how it behaves and how we can manage it. This is why soil pH is often called the master variable of biological and chemical […]