COL Soil testing an essential tool

Establishing and using a soil testing program is essential to determine crop nutrient needs.

"Farmers should use soil test information before applying fertilizer, lime or manure,'' says Antonio Mallarino, Iowa State University agronomist. "Spring is a good time to soil sample established pasture or alfalfa fields before spreading commercial fertilizer, lime or manure.''

Mallarino recommends resampling every two years to four years at the same time of year and following the same crop.

It's important to prepare a soil sampling plan before testing in any field and formulate nutrient applications after interpreting soil test results.

Risk management booklet available


A new publication titled "Risk Management Toolbox for Specialty Crop Growers'' is available. One aspect of the publication goes into detail concerning the new Noninsured Assistance Program.

A specialty crop is defined as a crop that producers in certain areas can't insure through regular channels. Examples are fruits, vegetables, herbs and maple syrup.

The publication was co-authored by the University of Minnesota Extension Service and the Farm Service Agency.

It can be obtained from the MES Distribution Center at 1-800-876-8636.

Soil pH critical to alfalfa crop

Soil pH is one of the most overlooked principles of good alfalfa production, says Wayne Schoper, Brown County (Minn.) Extension educator.

Most soils in our areas have pH levels that are naturally in the 6.5 to 7.5 range, he said. Good alfalfa survivability needs a pH of 6.8 to 7. Growing alfalfa with less than optimum pH will restrict growth by up to 40 percent.

Don't skimp on fertilizer, Schoper said, especially potash. Alfalfa requires 58 pounds of potash to produce a ton of forage. Boron and sulfur are two additional micronutrients needed to maintain good yields.


Most native soils have good levels of these two nutrients, but Schoper recommends testing to make sure.

Ryegrass not best for upper Midwest

Ryegrass is promoted as the "wonder grass'' to solve all forage production problems, says Bill Halfman, Houston County (Minn.) Extension educator. The ryegrass being praised includes perennial ryegrass, Italian ryegrass, hybrid ryegrass and festuloliums.

Ryegrass has its place in some situations and not in others, he said.

Its major drawback is that it hasn't survived well in the upper Midwest. Two years is about as long as these ryegrasses will last in any quantity. For that reason, it doesn't make an acceptable species for a permanent pasture or hay field.

With the seed cost and extra maintenance required, it would be a very high cost pasture or hayfield with no advantages over some other mixes.

A base pasture of smooth bromegrass, orchardgrass or reed canarygrass with a 30 percent to 40 percent stand of alfalfa and clovers would be a much more economical choice, Halfman said.

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