By Brian Hefty

Other than cash rent, the biggest expense on most farms is fertilizer.  In tough times, your thought is probably, “Can I cut my fertilizer rates without sacrificing yield?”  The better question is this, “How can I better invest my fertilizer dollars to maximize yield?”

If you can answer that second question, every single year you farm will just be that much better.  The problem is, how do you know what to do when it comes to fertilizer?  What we find is almost all farmers tell us they know virtually nothing about making their own fertilizer recommendations, so they are completely reliant on someone else’s advice.  Unfortunately, that someone else is usually the fertilizer dealer.

In one day at an Ag PhD Soils Clinic, we can teach you how to pull soil samples, read soil tests, and make your own fertilizer recommendations!  Sure, you won’t be an expert in one day, but you’ll know enough to be able to start handling this important task on your farm yourself.  We will also show you how to make your own variable rate application maps, so you can download that information to your precision equipment.

Many people in agriculture talk about how complicated it is to read a soil test and figure out what really needs to be done in each field.  We will simplify it for you, with an easy, step by step process.  Most importantly, we’ll help you identify your yield-limiting factors.  Stated another way, what should you spend your money on first to get the greatest return for your fertilizer investment?

At most of our soils clinics, we will have a number of agronomists there to help you with YOUR soil tests if you have questions.  Please bring your soil tests from your fields with you, so you can step through them.  We want to make sure that by the end of the day you have useful information that can help your farm based on YOUR situation and YOUR fields.  Also, we can help you a lot more if you have complete soil tests.  What I mean by that is we don’t just want to look at N, P, and K.  We need soil pH, base saturation, cation exchange capacity, organic matter, sulfur, and micronutrients.

Soils and fertility may not seem like the most exciting topic for you or the most fun way to spend a day, but just think of the thousands or even millions of dollars you’ll spend on fertilizer in your lifetime.  The better you invest those dollars in the right fertility program, the more profitability and the healthier soils you’ll see.

While our Soils Clinics are free, all we ask is that you please pre-register here.  That way we have enough chairs, food, and soils books for everyone.  Please go to our website at for more details and to pre-register.