Relying On Soil Tests, Covers Make Fertility More Efficient

The 9th class of Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners has seen reduced fertilizer inputs and higher yields by monitoring the soil and using cover crops to hold nutrients in place.

By No-Till Farmer Editors

Honored for how they manage their fertility practices, Jason Carter of Eastover, S.C., Mike Werling of Decatur, Ind., and Mike Taylor of Helena, Ark., were recognized as the 9th annual class of Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners at the 2017 National No-Tillage Conference in St. Louis.

Sponsored by No-Till Farmer and AgroLiquid, below is a synopsis of each practitioner’s advanced fertility program.


Organic matter levels above 1.5% in the coastal plains soils of central South Carolina are rare, says Jason Carter. But the Eastover, S.C., corn and soybean no-tiller found a way to climb that hill in the past 5 years and now has his sights on a goal twice that high.

Carter thinks it’s a possibility — he’s already bumped his organic matter from 0.6% to 1.5%. His secret to shifting away from permanently low levels to the rapid increase he’s seen is the combination of cover-crop mixes with regular doses of chicken litter.

And by tracking the changes in his soils through soil testing, Carter has been able to reduce inputs.

“Lime can cost $40 a ton,” he says. “We’ve found that besides reducing commercial nitrogen (N), cover crops combined with chicken litter are keeping pH up. We used to have to lime every other year, but now we’ve got a 6.5 pH with no lime for the past 6 years.”

He also doesn’t need to apply commercial phosphorus (P) or potassium (K), and the chicken litter supplies most micronutrients.


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