Info is Key to Restoring Soil Health with Manure

posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Let’s go back in time to August, it’s the first leg of our crop fertility adventure, the time when members of the environmental services team play matchmaker—matching the nutrient needs of Iowa soil and swine manure, that is.

Out to the barns our nutrient experts go, pulling samples from every pit, carefully preserving the samples so nutrients are stabilized and analyzed accurately. Our team then packs the samples into coolers and ships them off to Midwest Labs for a series of tests that will determine the manure's quality—oh the anticipation. 

Within days, thousands upon thousands of data points flow back to Iowa Select Farms, with each farms’ unique report featuring values of the big three crop nutrients—Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash (Potassium), plus moisture content, salt level, and all of the extra special micro and macronutrients that work to build up the health of the soil. 

Waiting patiently in the wings is the soil fertility data of 170,000 acres of crop ground set to be fertilized with manure from Iowa Select barns. Iowa farmers or businesses such as Labre Crop Consulting pull these samples from their fields at least once every four years—after harvest or early spring.

From the samples come a beautiful patchwork map of the field outlining soil type and nutrient levels throughout the plot. The records are examined every September, when members of our environmental services team review the soil reports and make their matches—prescribing the right rate of liquid manure to be applied to the right field. Most importantly, within the guidelines set forth by the DNR.

As combines begin to roll, our 65 manure application teams receive their field assignments, maps and soil prescriptions. Soon after, farmers receive their soil, manure and application reports verifying the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Strategy was executed.

Now here we are in mid-Nov. Applicators are working their way through harvested fields, setting their equipment to inject precisely the right amount of manure as prescribed. 

Integrity of both the manure analysis and soil sample is key to both matchmaking and protecting water quality, which is why farmers use companies such as Labre Crop Consulting to provide accurate and independent third-party data. 

Since 2005, Iowa Select Farms has relied on Labre Crop Consulting in Manson, Iowa, to independently sample and analyze the soil composition and nutrient needs of more than 200,000 acres of Iowa cropland.

They’ve been with Iowa Select Farms for years—growing right along with us. We invite you to read this issue of Homegrown Iowa!