Since harvest flew by this year for much of the U.S., you now have some time to give your fields some much-needed TLC.
“This is one of the earliest harvests on record in Illinois and last year was one of the latest,” says Brett Roberts, Illinois state agronomist for Natural Resource Conservation Service. “Talk about two seasons that are just polar opposite.”
Roberts offers this to-do list to fill your extra time this fall.
This is probably one of the first opportunities that farmers have had in several years to address compaction, Roberts says. He encourages farmers to fully analyze their fields and use any needed deep tillage implements to fix compaction.
While it may be too late in the calendar for some areas, Roberts says planting fall cover crops is always a good idea.
In Illinois, he says, farmers have to worry about nitrates coming out of the tile lines. “We know that fall cover crops do a whole lot as far as absorbing any excess nitrogen that might be in the soil after harvest.”
“Healthy crops protect the soil better,” Roberts says. So, to reach that healthy level, he suggests getting caught up on lime applications.
In addition, Roberts says that if you have a lot of acres to cover with nitrogen applications, you may need to consider getting some on this fall. “The spring can be a narrow window for some farmers.”
Thus a lot of farmers opt to spread anhydrous ammonia in the fall. “If you’re going to apply nitrogen in the fall, we stress anhydrous ammonia over urea,” he says. “Fall application is the least desirable, but it’s a necessary evil for many.”
To make sure you N is available in the spring, Roberts says you must wait to apply once soil temperature has reached 50 degrees F. Otherwise, he says, the anhydrous ammonia will convert to the nitrate form, which causes the N to become mobilized.
Another key factor with fall application is using an N stabilizer, he says. “That stabilizer only works for a short time, but if you wait until the soil is 50 degrees and you use a stabilizer, then your microbial activity is minimum. It buys you the needed time.”
Roberts says he knows farmers are antsy to get their fertilizer spread while they have the time and good weather, but Roberts says waiting for the perfect conditions is mandatory.
Sample Your Soil
Fall is also a good time to take soil samples, Roberts says.
A lot of time, with high fertilizer prices, farmers will cut back. So, there could be some potential deficiencies. By finding out your exact nutrient levels, you won’t waste money on fertilizer you don’t need, he says.