For the past few months, we have discussed the topic of sustainability in our newsletter. We know that this is a hot topic with many opinions surrounding it, but we also know that for years, our members have actively implemented sustainable practices. Key is committed to investigating new technologies to improve production and deliver economic benefits to our members. This means we will be diligent about participating in research and educating our growers about sustainability. In past issues, we learned that there are three areas directly connected to positive crop nutrient practices.
• Nitrogen – Nitrogen is an essential plant nutrient applied to fields. Key agronomists encourage stabilizers which help spread out risk of nitrogen loss.
• Variable Rate Prescriptions – Key agronomists write variable rate prescriptions so the precise amount of nutrients are applied right to where plants need them for maximum plant performance.
• Soil Sampling – Intensive soil sampling enables growers to make sound management decisions about the nutrient levels and fertility recommendations on a field.
Next, we learned that there are two areas that growers make conscious decisions about which affect soil health.
• Conservation – Cover crops are a form of conservation that are planted primarily to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds and pests.
• Tillage – Conservation tillage is any method of soil cultivation that leaves the previous year’s crop residue (such as corn stalks or soybean stubble) on fields before and after planting the next crop, to reduce soil erosion and runoff.
Finally, we learned that pest management is crucial, which is why agronomists rely on regular education and training provided by Iowa State University.
• Integrated pest management (IPM) is an approach to controlling a specific pest in a specific setting that makes use of current pest information, regular monitoring and record keeping to determine if and when action against a pest is needed. IPM promotes prevention over remediation, so Key agronomists work alongside growers to integrate multiple strategies rather than a solitary control option.