We manage our fertility with the goal of minimizing our fertilizer use while sustaining healthy, high quality crops. This process starts with soil testing each of our fields, prior to planting, to determine nutrient levels already present. We use this information to tailor fit a fertility plan for each field/crop and select from the following tools, those fertility practices that best meet the needs of the crop:
- “Spoon-feeding” granulized fertilizer (small doses of fertilizer allow the plant time to take up nutrients before they leach out of the soil);
- Composted bio solids (used for turf production) for slow release nitrogen, micronutrients and organic matter;
- Cover crops to recapture nutrients that remain after harvest;
- Application of other mineral nutrients (e.g., lime, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur) the plants need for growth; and
- Rotation of our crops for healthier soil.
Examples of how fertility affects crop quality and sustainability: Every plant has nutrient needs that must be met and by using the following methods we can balance the plant’s uptake of specific nutrients with what we apply:
When seeding our wheat we apply minimal fertilization, using balanced fertilizer (19-19-19), to stimulate tillering and minimize leaf growth. Further along in the development of the wheat plant we apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to maximize protein and yield.
Our approach to growing barley is very different; the plant only requires one fertilization and excessive fertility will result in a protein level that is too high, rendering the barley undesirable for malting.
We use granulized fertilizers on our grain crops, instead of manure, as manure is not consistent enough to provide specific nutrient levels at particular plant life stages which is necessary for producing a consistent and reliable product.
We fertilize, based on soil tests, for maximum root growth and moderate shoot growth through regular (e.g., monthly), light fertilizer applications. This is important as it helps the sod to hold together when harvested and reduces some disease pressure. An example: pythium and brown patch thrive with too high a fertility, while dollar spot and red thread indicate inadequate fertility.