Manage Soil Compaction and Watch Your Crops & Profits Grow

As we close out one growing season and prepare to get back in the fields for another, what strategies do you have in place to reduce soil compaction and its yield dragging impact? Considering that today’s tractors, combines, and field equipment are only getting bigger, it’s vital to understand the impact that soil compaction has on your soil, crop health, yields, and bottom line profits. With margins tight and maximizing profits essential, there has never been a better time to give this important issue serious consideration. 

Soil compaction is magnified through many of the routine field operations that are often performed under less than ideal conditions when soils are wet and more susceptible to compaction. The use of heavy equipment and tillage implements can cause lasting damage to the soil structure as the surface of compacted soil is much more likely to seal off – simply meaning air and water have a harder time moving down through the soil. As compaction builds, water accumulates on the surface and moves downhill creating a greater potential for soil erosion and water runoff,  carrying eroded topsoil, applied fertilizers, and pesticides along with it.  

Soil compaction causes multiple issues throughout the growing season from planting to harvesting.  For a seed, compaction causes greater stress on the seedling during germination and root expansion because it has to work much harder to develop and spread throughout the soil.  A critical aspect of the consequences of compaction is air and water do not have the ability to effectively travel throughout the soil resulting in more areas of standing water, poor drainage, and crop damage due to the seedlings and roots potentially suffocating.

Here’s a list of how compaction can impact your soil and crop production…

  • Causes soil pore spaces to become smaller and more compressed.
  • Reduces airflow in the soil, restricting healthy plant respiration.
  • Decreases the rate water can penetrate and percolate in the soil root zone and subsoil.
  • Increases the potential for surface water ponding, water runoff, surface soil waterlogging, and soil erosion.
  • Reduces the ability of any soil to hold water and air which are necessary for plant root growth and function.
  • Reduces valuable biological activity in the soil.  
  • Restricts crop emergence as a result of increased soil crusting and deteriorating soil conditions.
  • Significantly inhibits root growth, limiting root penetration, and the volume of soil explored by roots into the subsoil.
  • Compaction restricts root development and exploration, decreasing the ability of all crops to utilize nutrients and water efficiently from soil.
  • Compaction is a Yield Killer.

You will pay a price for soil compaction – all of these factors increase crop stress and lower yields resulting in loss of profits.

There is a simple way to cost-effectively reverse the effects of compaction… Respire® by AgriGro.


Respire® represents the next generation of technology in the fight against compaction and its yield-limiting impact. Respire® is an anionic, soil-amending surfactant that addresses a wide range of soil compaction problems common in today’s agriculture. Because the soil itself is chemically altered, results are longer lasting than those obtained via surface water surfactants. Benefits are visible after first watering or rainfall and will continue the entire growing season before additional applications are required.

Respire®  works to offset compaction by improving soil structure, drainage, and tilth to maximize yields and support overall soil and plant health. For conventional tillage or no-till applications, Respire® helps support a healthy growing environment so your crops can reach their genetic yield potential.

Good soil structure is the number one defense the soil has against compaction and it determines the ability of any soil to hold and conduct water, nutrients, and the air necessary for maximum root growth and plant development. Respire® is the perfect compliment to AgriGro’s line of prebiotic products like IgniteS2® and FoliarBlend® and can be used in combination to maximize the soil’s microbiome to reduce compaction and improve crop production.  When these products are used together they have a greater impact on soil health and crop production with Respire® affecting the physical and chemical properties of the soil while IgniteS2® and FoliarBlend® enhance the biological life of the soil to help naturally fight compaction and improve overall soil and plant health and crop yield.

For more information on Respire®, click on the link below and get started today. 





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Growing a Winter Garden

Winter has arrived! Depending on where you live, snow more than likely blankets the ground and each time you venture outdoors you’re met with chilly temperatures. But did you know it is possible to garden during the winter months? Sure, there are a few more challenges but it is achievable. Many greens and some other vegetables actually prefer cooler weather to grow.

Winter Garden Greens:
Cauliflower
Kale
Broccoli
Turnips
Cabbage
Brussels sprouts
Collards
Bok cho

Underground Vegetables:
Carrots
Beets
Radishes
Turnips
Onions
Parsnips
Leeks
Potatoes

The Key to Winter Gardening

To achieve the best results with your winter garden you want 90-percent grown by the first frost. Then it can go into cold storage, and you can harvest it as needed throughout the winter. To figure out when to plant or transplant, grab your calendar, start with that type’s maturity date and add 10 days to allow for the shorter fall days. Next, count back from the date of the first expected frost. Whatever date you land on, that is the day your plants should be planted in the garden. 

Pro Tip: When the first frosts come, protect your garden with a thin sheet or row cover.

Adjust for the Temperatures

Depending on the winter weather, temperatures can be brutal from December to March. As the temperatures get colder and winter becomes harsher, you will want to modify your garden to protect it from the cold. 

#1 – Replace light-colored mulch with dark-colored mulch. This will help trap more heat inside the soil.

#2 – Use heat-absorbing compost.

#3 – On nights where the temperature falls into the twenties or below, place plastic on top of your garden and then add an old comforter on top to protect your harvest from the winter elements. But remember to factor in humidity, depending on where you live – humidity could be helpful.

As soon as the morning sun rises, be sure to pull off those blankets and let your garden breathe.

Next Steps…

While it may be too late to grow all the greens and underground vegetables this winter, keep these tips in mind for next year. The process and planning truly begins in the summer and fall. 

Don’t forget your AgriGro products! AgriGro Home provides plant nutrition products that support amazing plant growth and soil health to grow beyond what nature can do on its own. Bountiful Harvest®, Super-Cal®, and Ultra® make a powerful team. Plus, they are all-natural, performance-proven, university tested, and safe to use around children and pets.


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SOURCES:
Miller, Elizabeth; Miller, Crow.Countryside and Small Stock Journal;
The Art of Winter Gardening. Waterloo Vol. 83, Iss. 2, (Mar/Apr 1999): 59.

Turning a Heavily Shaded, Wild Hog and Hurricane Destroyed Yard into a Beautiful Lawn in 30 Days

My mom lives in southeast Texas and has 7-acres of land with most of it being heavily wooded and unusable. The front lawn, however, is divided by her driveway with 1/5 of the lawn on one side of the driveway and 4/5 on the other side. Our project was on the larger side or the 4/5 side.

It has always been my mom’s desire to have a green lawn, but my dad loved the trees. The heavy shade and soil conditions didn’t allow for grass. About 80% of their 40,000 sq. ft. front yard was dirt with heavy sand/clay soil. They call this gumbo clay in that part of the country. The part we were going to work on measured just about 30,000 sq. ft. 

To make matters worse, the day before we began working on the yard a herd of feral hogs came through and turned up part of the lawn looking for grubs and anything else they could find. The damage was mostly in the shaded part and what we thought was a bad thing actually turned out to be beneficial. With the soil turned up, it was more acceptable for planting seed. We just hoped those feral hogs wouldn’t come back!

 The Challenge of Choosing the Right Seed

Seeded Ground

I was faced with the challenge of choosing the best grass to plant in a place where no grass has ever grown. Being in southeast Texas, Newton County, which is about 80-miles north of the Gulf and 20-miles west of the Louisiana border, most all the grasses that are grown there are warm-season grasses. In fact, the only cool-season grass we were able to find in any store was annual ryegrass, which is overseeded in Bermudagrass, adding some green in winter. We would not plant an annual grass so I made sure I brought the grass seed with me.

The most shade tolerant of all warm-season grasses is St. Augustine, which my mom has in part of the front lawn. However, she also had more than 50 trees – both pines, and hardwoods and these are just in the section we seeded. She had a total of about 60 trees total in her front lawn. Almost half of those trees are in 1/3 of the yard on the east side where the heaviest shade is located. No grass has ever grown there, only a few patches of moss. 

Fortunately, as far as shade goes, a hurricane came through just before we started and damaged six trees, which were soon afterward taken out. This allowed for slightly more light to filter through. But there was quite a bit of debris left behind after the hurricane. We had to remove the limbs and leaves before we could begin.

 How We Considered Light and Heat Levels

Before we started, I took light readings at noon to see how much light was reaching the soil in the most shaded part compared to the full sun sections. What I discovered was that the shaded areas were receiving half the sunlight compared to the full sun, which was great because we had expected it to be much less.  The sun was coming in only in patches through the canopy for most of the day, but in one part of the day between 4 – 6 p.m., most of the shaded area did receive almost full sun (except for the shade cast by the tree trunks). The shade also lowered the temperature by about 20-degrees.  I determined this was enough light to work with using the more shade-tolerant varieties of Turf Type Tall Fescue (TTTF).  Many cool-season grasses are more shade tolerant than the most shade tolerant warm-season grass.

The second consideration was if the more heat-sensitive grass of the mix, the fine fescues, could survive the southern summer heat. This has yet to be seen in this project, but we will keep watch over it. Fine fescues are the most shade tolerant, but also the most heat-sensitive of all cool-season grasses. 

In the U.S. fine fescues are relegated strictly as shade grass. Most fine fescues cannot take full sun and this is especially so in southern locations. Yet they can still fail in the shade if the heat gets too high.

For this reason, I made sure there were not just fine fescues in the shade mix. There are about eight different varieties altogether, three varieties of fine fescue and five varieties of TTTF including Nightcrawler TTTF and Cross 4 TTTF. Both are very shade tolerant and crossfire 4 performs well in the deep south while nightcrawler is one of the few fescues that put out rhizomes. The idea for all the varieties is if one variety fails in a specific location then the others will take over.

New Lawn After 30 Days

 How We Started This Project

Our job was not an easy one. At just under 30,000 sq. ft., it was large enough that we had to be careful about the equipment we chose. We needed to break the surface of the soil but didn’t want to rent a walk-behind dethatcher since most are quite small. So I made a 36″ wide dethatcher from materials my mom had in the shop.

Here is how we began…

Using 2×4’s and plywood, along with 6″ nails, I made a dethatcher I could pull behind the mower. The only part of the dethatcher that was touching the soil was the end with the nails sticking out about 2.5 inches. I lined the 2 X 4’s up on either side of the 36″ wide plywood, clamped them in place, and drove nails down the length of the wood. 

Note: The nails I used are labeled as “Pole Barn Nails” and are pretty strong.

I also went to the tire store and got a damaged car tire tube they were going to throw away. I used this to weigh down the dethatcher. I cut the tube in two sections to handle it better and when I was finished, the nails on the dethatcher had about 60 lbs pushing down on them. I use car tires filled with sand because the tubes do not bounce and stay in place. If I used cinder blocks they would have bounced out quickly without tying them down. Since I had to lift up the dethatcher often to clean out the pine needles and leaves caught in the nails, the tire tubes worked much better. In fact, it worked perfectly and for the first few hours, I ran the dethatcher over the lawn in different directions. This broke up the surface and also removed some moss in one location as well as smoothed the damaged soil by hogs.

I then spread the seed. I went over the yard twice. First with a shade grass mix that included five different varieties of seed. This was used primarily in the most shaded part of the lawn. Then again with turf-type tall fescue with five varieties. Afterward I used the backside of a rake and covered the seed with a thin layer of soil. A total of eight varieties of seed were used because there were two varieties that were the same in each bag. I spread each variety, shade grass and TTTF separately so I knew exactly how much of each type was being applied. In the bare ground sections, I spread 10 lbs total per 1,000 sq. ft. In the full sun sections, I only spread the TTTF.

Since there was no soil test performed at that time, the following day I applied a starter fertilizer to ensure there was enough Phosphorus for the new seeds. Phosphorus (P) in the soil is relatively immobile. It doesn’t flow or move with rainwater or irrigation once it enters the soil. There may be plenty of P for mature grass but since the young roots of the germinated seed are short they may not be able to reach it. Therefore, starter fertilizer is often recommended. 

Then we began watering the seed to keep it moist, watering at least twice a day and sometimes three times. The seeds must take in water until they germinate. It took eight days to begin to see grass blades emerging from the seed. The photos showing a green lawn were taken 30 days after planting the seed. Next spring I will get an update on the grass.

 The Benefits of Using Turf Formula® and SuperCal®

Turf Formula® mixed with Super-Cal® is being used. Together they increase the soil microorganisms tremendously as well as increase seed germination. In studies, starting with 5,500,000 CFU (Colony Forming Units) of viable microbes, the studies showed within 72-hours the numbers increased to 187,000,000. This increase in beneficial microbial numbers and activity breakdown soil elements faster into nutrients the plants can use. While fertilizers usually contain just three elements, Turf Formula works on the full spectrum of elements that are broken down by microbes and can be used by plants.  

Turf Formula® can also increase nutrient uptake, make photosynthesis more efficient and create healthier plants with increased root numbers and depth. Plus, soil pathogens are decreased helping plants to better withstand stress and drought. 

I would never grow grass without Turf Formula® and SuperCal® since it has proven itself to be a great benefit in creating better, healthier turf.

Russ James
AgriGro Turf Specialist

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Prebiotics in the Poultry Industry

In poultry production, bird health is greatly influenced by the microbial communities present in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and the surrounding environment (i.e., bedding). The composition and diversity of these communities fluctuate tremendously throughout a growing period and must remain balanced to ensure proper nutrition, development, and disease suppression/bird immunity. Imbalances in the microbiota (a condition known as dysbiosis) can lead to the weakening of intestinal walls in the GIT, reduced nutrient digestibility, enteritis and diarrhea, and other consequences that diminish bird performance and limit a grower’s return on investment (Shang et al. 2018). Dysbiosis is a relatively common condition and can be triggered by the following factors: 

  • Nutritional imbalance
  • Poor management
  • Host genetics
  • Environmental stress
  • Increased abundance of harmful microorganisms and metabolites
  • Mycotoxins 

Dr. Edgar Oviedo, Professor of Broiler Nutrition and Management at North Carolina State University, suggests that three intersecting approaches may be used to maintain equilibrium within the gut microbiome of poultry: (i) mitigation of environmental stress; (ii) avoidance of malnutrition; and (iii) inclusion of feed additives, with a growing emphasis placed on the latter (Oviedo-Rondón). 

Non-antibiotic feed additives currently in the marketplace include…

  • Probiotics (live microbes)
  • Prebiotics (biomolecules that promote the growth of beneficial microbes)
  • Phytobiotics (plant-derived performance enhancers)
  • Nutritional supplements (enzymes, herb extracts, etc.)

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are among the most intensively studied feed additives and have been proven repeatedly to positively impact the microbiota present in the GIT and fecal matter. For example, various oligosaccharides have been documented to increase the abundance of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus (beneficial bacteria) in the colon of different hosts as well as suppress pathogenic bacteria (Escherichia coli and Clostridium spp.) (Shang et al. 2018; Jung et al. 2008; Xu et al. 2003; Nywang and Gibson 1993). Additionally, carbohydrate-based prebiotics enhance nutrient digestibility, modulate intestinal tissue homeostasis, and help mitigate grower/consumer exposure to pathogens (Shang et. al 2018; Yang et al. 2009). The plethora of studies generated by the scientific community collectively demonstrates that prebiotics serve as an effective tool against dysbiosis, ensuring a balanced microbiome and continual bird health throughout a growing period.

The AgriGro® Difference…

AgriGro® is a prebiotic technology leader for agricultural use, providing a line of products that promote balanced microbial activity within the bird GIT and bed layer. Third-party research and real-world employment have demonstrated that IndigoLT® and NutriZyme®, two products offered by AgriGro®, work independently and in conjunction to increase the abundance of beneficial poultry microorganisms (i.e., Bifidobacterium), mitigate pathogens (i.e., Staphylococcus spp.), decrease mortality rate, and prevent wet litter, altogether improving flock performance and minimizing the onset of dysbiosis.

For more information about IndigoLT® and NutriZyme®, click below.








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Sources:  

Shang Y, Kumar S, Oakley B, Kim WK. Chicken gut microbiota: importance and detection technology. Front Vet Sci. (2018) 5:254.
Oviedo-Rondón, E. Dysbacteriosis, its causes and its impact. (https://www.dsm.com/content/dam/dsm/anh/en_US/documents/Dysbacteriosis,%20its%20causes%20and%20its%20impact.pdf)
Jung SJ, Houde R, Baurhoo B, Zhao X, Lee BH. Effects of galactooligosaccharides and a Bifidobacteria lactis-based probiotic strain on the growth performance and fecal microflora of broiler chickens. Poult Sci. (2008) 87:1694–9.
Xu ZR, Hu CH, Xia MS, Zhan XA, Wang MQ. Effects of dietary fructooligosaccharide on digestive enzyme activities, intestinal microflora and morphology of male broilers. Poult Sci. (2003) 82:1030–6.
Nywang X, Gibson GR. Effects of the in vitro fermentation of oligofructose and inulin by bacteria growing in the human large intestine. J Appl Bacteriol. (1993) 75:373–80.
Yang Y, Iji PA, Choct M. Dietary modulation of gut microflora in broiler chickens: a review of the role of six kinds of alternatives to in-feed antibiotics. World Poult Sci J. (2009) 65:97.  

When Should I Run A Soil Test?

In order to maximize crop production, testing the soil is key. But many wonder, how often should I run a soil test? Here is the information farmers need to know:

When should I run a soil test?

The short answer is now, if your most recent soil reports are more than two years old. If you have never sampled before then I would suggest setting up a plan to sample annually when you have time, and the fields are accessible. This can be any time of the year – spring, summer, fall, or winter. Once you have started sampling during a season you should continue with that schedule. The reason for this is to give you a more accurate comparison from year to year to see what changes have actually occurred from your management of nutrients.

If you pull samples in the fall one year, and pull samples in the spring the next year, it will appear that you have gained nutrients and could cause you to make a decision that would lower your yields. Spring soil readings generally will be higher than fall readings. So, it is preferable to stick with pulling samples at the same time as previous tests were taken for an accurate comparison.

Do I need to test for anything other than potassium, phosphorus and pH?

Absolutely, you should be getting a complete soil report that includes all micro and macronutrients including secondary nutrients such as sulfur, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. It is not possible to determine what may be needed to optimize yields from just two nutrients and a pH reading. At last count, there were more than 14 essential nutrients that have been identified for plants.  If you do not test for these nutrients you may never determine what is needed for top production.  

Where should I send my soil sample?

Send your samples to any commercial Ag lab that can provide a report that contains the calculated exchange capacity (CEC) of your soil, all five cations with the base saturation percentages calculated (potassium, calcium, magnesium, hydrogen, and sodium) and micronutrients extracted using a Mehlich 3 extraction process. There are many good labs across the country that can provide this protocol, including Waypoint, Midwest, Brookside, etc.

Pricing is normally $15.00 – $60.00 per sample.

What should I use to pull samples?

Obtain a stainless steel soil probe for this purpose and use it to pull 5 to 6 inch deep plugs from the sampled area.

Where should I pull samples and how many?

This can be a difficult question to answer depending on what you are trying to accomplish and the size of your budget. If you have soil reports from past years, sample the same areas for good comparisons.

If you are starting off and trying to determine why a certain area does not produce as well as others, pull four or five probes from the poor area for one sample and pull for 4 or 5 probes from the best-producing soil for a second sample.  When you receive your two reports you should be able to readily compare the differences and then feel confident in what your plan of action should be to improve the poor areas.

Why is testing essential?

Regularly testing your soil will ensure that your input dollars are being spent wisely. AgriGro® offers prebiotics, fertilizer treatments, and other crop inputs that can enhance your farming efforts while boosting the soil’s biodiversity. Locate an AgriGro® dealer or contact our team to learn more about the science behind our products..