Hora soil testing

Tracking & Tapping Into Natural Nitrogen Cycle Cuts Inputs

Iowa no-tiller Mitchell Hora uses weekly soil samples and the Haney test throughout the season to monitor naturally-available nutrients in corn and soybeans. The extra effort has cut his nitrogen rate in half.


Pictured Above: WEEKLY SAMPLES. Mitchell Hora spends a lot of time soil sampling on his 700-acre farm near Washington, Iowa. Sampling from numerous management zones, Hora pulls weekly soil samples from flagged points for the Haney test to monitor naturally-occurring nitrogen and how much of that nutrient may be tied up in his cover crops

Mitchell Hora spent the summer of 2014 scouting corn and soybean fields for E4 Crop Intelligence, and knew then he wanted to own his own consulting business. The following summer, after his sophomore year at Iowa State University, he was pulling soil samples in Minnesota for a firm providing the Haney test for growers. The test result numbers bewildered him.

“I’d look at the results from the lab and think, ‘What do these confusing numerical results really mean, and how can we make them easier for growers to use to make more money?’”

Today, those numbers help him significantly reduce fertilizer and pesticide costs on his family’s 700-acre no-till corn and soybean farm near Washington, Iowa, and serve as the basis for his start-up company, Continuum Ag, which employs 11 people serving clients in 40 states and 11 countries.

“As we’ve grown, the company now hosts one of the world’s largest database of Haney test results,” Hora explains. “We quickly outgrew the Excel product I’d designed in college, and had to build new software to handle all the data.”

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Fertilizer applied to the field isn’t taken up directly by plants. Soil microbes use…

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Dan crummett 0618

Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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