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Precision ag on Blackstrap farm

Extracting a soil sample to help identify a problem

The zero- to four-inch level is the new topsoil hauled in from the lower land. The four- to seven-inch level is what passed for topsoil for many years. It’s really upper subsoil.

My Dundurn farm is rolling Weyburn/Elstow loam with some very eroded knolls. For many years the combine raced over the knolls with little pouring in the hopper. The erosion over the decades was by water, but much of it from annual tillage — especially in the days of summerfallow.

A few years ago I acquired a six-yard Crown scraper which my 108HP MFWD tractor handles well. Some of two feet of topsoil resting comfortably down slope and around sloughs has been moved to the eroded knolls. In the fall of 2011 I broadcast a large rate (about 300 pounds per acre of 12-52-0) on most of the knolls. This was one of the worst knolls that grew little; now it looks just like the rest of the quarter.

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The above can hardly be described as any sort of precision, but it does deal with the individual soil problem within a quarter section and is gradually making the former eroded knolls as productive as much better parts of the quarter.

I really have no data to calculate the economics of what I have done, but it will certainly be a lot more fun running the combine over the formerly desperate excuse for a soil.

This article first appeared in the July 22, 2014 issue of Grainews

About the author


Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.



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