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Moses needed on the crop nutrition front

I am not sure whether to feel sorry for farmers or give them
credit. It is impossible for producers to go anywhere – to a conference, trade
show, field day, wherever – without some very knowledgeable and trustworthy
person telling them “this is the product to buy that will give you that little
extra ummph in yield”.

The concept isn’t new, but there just seems to be more of
these products these days. “Use this and your biggest problem will be finding

enough bin space for all those extra bushels” although most claims also come
with the caveat of (under certain soil conditions, and depending on weather). A
seed treatment, a soil treatment, a foliar spray that will deliver that little
extra shot of kryptonite or something else that isn’t included in —or may not
be in the proper ratio — of your standard N,P,K,S fertilizer blend. And to top
it off, it can often be something that isn’t identified in the standard soil
test recommendation, so you just have to trust us on this one.

I was at a farm meeting this week, where a fairly new
company, led by someone who has been around the crop nutrition industry for a
long time, was making the pitch for a seed treatment product, that gives the
seedling that little extra vigor so it can reach out for nutrients and optimize
the genetic potential of the crop variety.

It seemed logical. It made sense. So I have no reason to

doubt the information, although I’m not a farmer or a soil fertility
specialist. But all the pitches for products are good. There appears to be lots
of research, there are photos of side-by-side comparisons of treated and
untreated plots that show a huge difference, there are charts and graphs and
farmer testimonials, and the cost of these products isn’t crazy either. On average
you only need about one teaspoon for every hundred acres so costs are going to
run anywhere from $0 to $10 per acre depending on product or combination of
products.

By my rough calculations if a producer chose to use all
these crop aids combined, an average farm in Saskatchewan could produce enough
grain to feed China.

What adds to my personal confusion about these products, is
when I ask an independent, unbiased, neutral soil fertility specialist – like a
government guy – about these products I often hear this damning critique “there
has never been any research that shows these products are necessary” and/or
“they are supposed to be applied at such sparing rates how could it possibly

make any difference.”

I see, but what about the research, the photos, the graphs,
the compelling farmer testimonials? Somebody must be seeing some value in these
products.

And often these product promotions tag onto a field day or
event organized by an “independent” crop consulting company, so that implies to
me that the consulting company figures this product has some value. Although I
have often heard too that your good old family doctor will often prescribe a
particular remedy for whatever ails you, but some of them also get a kickback
from the company, so how necessary is that prescription? And that could be a
lot of hearsay, too.

I guess my point is, I find it a confusing world. I guess
from the farmers’ point of view they have the option to either try some of this
stuff, or not. They can try it on 100 acres and see what happens, or they can
also stay with the standard N,P,K,S blend they’ve used for the past 25 years
and just hope after sitting through one of these presentations they get a new
pen or ball cap or whatever.

I think this whole area of crop enhancement products needs a
real Moses. Some bullet-proof, independent, larger than life authority that can
lead the masses from the Desrt of Confusion, across the Misinformation River,
past the Valley of Conflicting Stories, to the promised land of What Really Works.

It is too big a job for me to handle, but at least I can do
an article on their appointment notice when they are hired.

 

Lee
Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or
by email at
[email protected]

 

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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