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Sponsored: Issues with Roots Begin Now

In many areas, harvest is wrapping up, and growers are shifting their focus to finalizing input decisions as they take a well-earned breather from the hustle. At this time, thoughts about tillage and fertility programs are beginning to take center stage. Many of the actions taken this fall beneath the soil surface can have a large impact on next year’s crop, especially as it relates to rooting and fertility.

In the rush to remove a crop, growers can create compaction and/or density layers in fields where conditions are not ideal. Deep tillage can be used to help break up these problems, however, it can be challenging to cause a complete fracture beneath the soil surface. Berms are formed between knives, and as a result, roots grow over or around these berm or penetrate less, eliminating access to around 40% of the soil profile. New technology is available that eliminates those subsoil berms and allows for better root access to nutrients.

When considering the importance of nutrient availability as it relates to rooting, keep in mind that nutrients get to the plant in one of three ways: root interception, diffusion and mass flow. For nitrogen, sulfur, magnesium and calcium, mass flow via soil water is the major mechanism for transporting nutrients to the plant. For potassium, diffusion across a short distance is the main mechanism. In soils where density layers exist, they act as funnels to move water beneath the soil and also restrict water movement.  Since water movement is the main mechanism of uptake for many of our nutrients these layers can have a very negative impact on nutrient movement in the soil. Even if your soils test fine for nutrients on a soil test, disrupting the gradient path to the roots can result in deficiencies. 

This is why the tillage and fertility placement decisions being made right now can impact crop yields this time next fall. Be sure to spend a little time behind your tillage tools to dig and find out if density layers exist.  You spend a lot of money on fertility -- why not make sure that fertility can get to your roots.

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