By Sara West
Nutrient Management Specialist
Farming is an incredibly busy and complex business where you rely on others for their professional advice with the assumption that they have the same goals in mind as you. Communication is key in the success of any business including your farming operation. Nutrient Management is probably one of the more complex divisions of your operation and can have a large impact on your operations profitability.
At the top of the list is communication between an agronomist and farmer. This is one of the most important discussions that will take place in your farming operations during the year. Adequate fertilizer application can very easily make or break your farm’s profit margins for the year. Not enough and you lose yield, too much and you run the high risk of having runoff and negative environmental impacts. Making sure your agronomist knows where you have applied manure can be a critical factor for your operation’s profitability. Your manure application needs to be factored into your fertilizer prescriptions to ensure the proper credits are given and commercial fertilizers are applied within the guidelines provided.
Also important is the discussion between the farmer and custom manure applicator or employees. The goal here being to ensure the correct amount of nutrients are being applied to support crop needs but also staying mindful of the environmental impacts that could occur if there’s an over-abundance of nutrients. It’s important to get manure hauled to the correct field location at correct rates, understanding that this can become challenging in recent years with extremely wet spring and fall seasons, late harvesting, and larger than normal accumulations of snow during the winter months. It’s also the farmer’s job to make sure their employees/applicators know the environmental restrictions associated with applying manure. These include winter slope restrictions or proximity to any body of water (or sinkhole!) that are relevant to the operation.
Another line of communication is between the farmer and person completing the operations nutrient management plan, possibly the County Feedlot Officer, or even a Pollution Control Agency (PCA) Officer. All three of these people should be able to answer questions the owner may have about the Nutrient Management Plan requirements and information necessary to keep it up to date. If the farming operation is selected for a spot inspection, a nutrient management plan must be current to be considered in compliance on the inspection. This requires an annual update to be completed by September 1 each year.
A final possibility might be to communicate about “new” research with local results. There are Nitrogen Rate and Timing trials that have taken place for the last four years all over the state including right here in southeast Minnesota. These trials were designed to provide information about the most profitable Nitrogen Rate as related to yield. The trials are used to make the N rate recommendations that are used in the MN PCA Manure Management Planner as well as entered into the Iowa State Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator that can be found at cnrc.agron.iastate.edu to assist growers in find the most accurate information related to Nitrogen Rate for the area. More information and regional research results can also be found at mda.state.mn.us/pesticide-fertilizer/nmi-results.
All these levels of communication tie together to make your operation successful. Without one, the others will be much less effective which could hinder any profits that could be gained. In the end it all comes down to everyone being on the same page when it comes to nutrient inputs into your farming operation. Good communication across the board will lead to the greatest results.