The Agronomy Learning Tool
This tool provides answers to multiple areas within Continuum Ag. Scroll down to see all of the listed questions and answers.
Created by: Cooper Reed | 2022
The Haney Test
How does the Haney Soil Health Test work?
a. The Haney Test mimics nature and uses plant exudates that are already found in the natural environment. The natural exudate is called the H3A extractant. Along with the H3A extractant, the Haney Test uses just water to extract more nutrients. The natural acids find what is readily available in the soil. It also indicates microbial potenital and can tell how active the microbial level of life is.
b. The Haney test doesn’t use harsh, unnatural acids, which gives a more realistic reading of the number of nutrients in the soil. This test is able to detect more nutrients than a traditional soil test.
What is %MAC (Microbial Active Carbon) and why is it important?
a. %MAC shows the percentage of liquid carbon used by the microbes in a 24 hour period.
b. The Microbial Active Carbon percentage equation reads as follows: Microbial activity/WEOC (water extractable organic carbon)
c. Microbes cycle carbon throughout the entire growing season. The plant takes in carbon from the environment and releases it back into the ground as liquid carbon. This liquid will then be used again by the microbes as the process repeats.
What is a C-N Ratio?
a. A good C-N ratio (Carbon to Nitrogen ratio) is from 8-1 to 15-1, anything above or below this ratio can be harmful to the crop.
b. You can lower your C-N ratio by using low carbon cover crops, such as legumes. You can raise your C-N ratio by using high carbon cover crops, such as cereal rye.
What is the difference between organic and inorganic nutrients?
a. Organic nutrients have a carbon molecule on them, which is what makes them organic.
b. Organic nutrients are the most readily available form of nutrients for microbes to ingest.
c. The more organic nutrients in the system, the faster the microbes will be able to break down crop residue.
How can tillage affect soil health?
a. The lifecycle of a soil aggregate is short because microbes are constantly eating and rebuilding. With tillage, you destroy soil aggregates and then it is an inhospitable environment for soil microbes, decreasing soil health.
b. The beneficial fungi is what holds the aggregates together, and can be damaged when tilled.
c. When switching from tillage to no-till, Continuum Ag recommends starting with no-tilling your soybeans. We recommend this because soybeans tend to be more resiliant to change than corn.
What is the difference between organic nutrient release and organic nutrient reserve?
a. Organic nutrient release is looking at the size of the organic nutrient pool in the soil.
b. Organic nutrient reserve is what’s left over after factoring in microbial activity. It is not yet available to plants. You have to increase microbial activity in order to access to the reserve nutrients.
What is the difference between traditional nutrient measurements and Haney test nutrient measurements?
a. A traditional soil test focuses mainly on inorganic N, P & K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium). The Haney test focuses on other data such as organic nutrients, microbial activity, and water extractable nutrients. These are important for measuring soil health.
b. A traditional test uses strong acids during extraction, which can decrease the pH of the soil. This influences nutrient availabitlity.
c. A traditional test tells you what fertilizer to apply in order to get a better yield. The Haney Soil Health Test tells you what you don’t need to apply.
d. The Haney Test looks at all nutrients, including the organic matter and the biological activity in the soil.
e. The Haney Test looks at what is readily available to the plant, therefore allowing you to know what will come available in the next growing season so you can better plan on how much fertilizer you will need.
What is the definition of regenerative agriculture?
a. Continuum Ag defines regenerative agriculture as the continuous implementation of the principles of soil health.
What are the principles of soil health?
- Keep the soil covered
- Minimize disturbance
- Keep living roots in the ground
- Diversify rotations
- Integrate livestock
What are the pros and cons of flying on a cover crop?
a. There are several positives to flying on your cover crop vs. ground planting, including minimal labor and getting all of the crop planted in a short time frame.
b. There are some negatives to flying on your cover crop. An aerial application can be expensive and does not always ensure an even application. The recommended seeding rate is usually higher with an aerial application than ground planting, which adds additional seed costs. Rain following an aerial application is very important to ensure good seed-to-soil contact.
Why is it easier to start cover cropping ahead of soybeans than it is ahead of corn?
a. Soybeans can withstand more competition than corn. Because they are so resilient, soybeans can be grown with a rye cover crop until rye pollination or rye harvest (aka relay cropping). The rye cover crop ties up nitrogen, which forces the soybean to work harder to fix it’s own nitrogen. The extra nitrogen the soybean fixes remains in the soil as nitrogen for the corn crop the following year.
b. Cover crops have been seen only as a defensive management tool to control things like erosion, but they can do much more. Cover crops should be used as an offensive management tool to control weeds, manage soil temperature and moisture, improve crop stress response, and more.
Can cover crops be used as an offensive tool?
a. Cover crops have been seen only as a defensive management tool to control things like erosion, but they can do much more. Cover crops can be used as an offensive management tool to control weeds, manage soil temperature and moisture, improve crop stress response, and more.
What is a good species or combination of species to plant?
a. Ahead of soybeans, cereal rye is the best cover crop to plant.
b. Ahead of corn, legumes like vetch and clover can be added to light rates of grass cover crops to keep the C-N ratio balanced.
*These answers are a general suggestion. If you would like specific rates and species based on your location, please contact us for a recommendation.
Is there a good market for cover crops?
Cover crops are not typically taken to harvest. They are usually used as a management tool to protect the soil and benefit the cash crop. If you are interested in harvesting your cover crop or using it for another purpose, some options include:
a. Using your harvested cover crop as seed for your next cover crop planting.
b. Using your cover crop for livestock grazing or feed.
c. Selling your cover crop to a local market, such as a grain distillery or miller.
How does Continuum Ag make fertilizer recommendations?
Continuum Ag uses recommendation formulas that are designed specifically for the Haney Test. These formulas use a factor of the yield goal to determine the amount of nutrient needed. Then the amount of nutrient in the soil is credited to determine how much fertilizer must be added to meet the yield goal.
Why should I listen to Continuum's recommendation? Why is your recommendation correct?
Our recommendations are created from soil samples that have been analyzed with the Haney Test, which uses extractants that mimic nature. These extractants show the organic and inorganic forms of nutrients in the soil, which gives us a better understanding of the amount of nutrients available to the plant.
How are your recommendations different from a normal recommendation?
The biggest difference between our recommendations and a normal recommendation is that we use the Haney Test. The Haney Test quantifies the biological activity, inorganic and organic forms of nutrients, and many other soil parameters to help us write accurate recommendations.
The Continuum Ag Regen Roadmap
What is the Regen Roadmap?
The Regen Roadmap is a field by field guide to implementing regen practices on your farm. It maps out detailed plans for carrying out specific practices, and we tailor the plan to meet your individual goals and needs. Our customer success team sets up monthly meetings with the farmers or farm managers. In these meetings, we answer any questions farmers have, cover monthly topics as it pertains to the roadmap, and provide advice for implementing specific plans written out in the Regen Roadmap document. We also hold two deep dive reviews with a “Regen Coach”. The first of these meetings is held in the summer, and we develop an in depth cover crop plan for the upcoming fall. The second of these meetings is held in the winter, and we go in depth with data analytics and profitability analysis on your farm.
Why should I purchase the Regen Roadmap?
The Regen Roadmap gives you a specific, accurate recommendation for implementing regenerative practices successfully on your farm. This recommendation is tailored directly to your operation and what will work best for you, whether you’re new to regenerative ag, or you’ve been implementing these practices on your farm for a long time.
If I need a more in depth review of what my Regen Roadmap cover crop recommendation is, what should I do?
If you need a better explanation of what your cover crop recommendation is on your Regen Roadmap, you can either get in touch with your customer success representative, or you can wait until your monthly check in to go over it.
Regenerative Pest/Disease/Weed Control
What is the best method of weed control for organic crops?
The best way to control weeds in an organic system is by planting cover crops. Cover crops can help control weeds by shading the empty space between the rows. The cover crop has an advantage over the weeds because it is already growing before the weeds germinate. Cover crops are also a great way to control weeds in non-organic systems!
Does planting cover crops help reduce the cost that the farmer spends on herbicide?
Cover crops can help reduce the cost of herbicides. Before the cash crop canopies, cover crops shade the area between the rows to prevent weed growth. When weed control with the cover crop is sufficient, herbicide applications can be reduced or eliminated.
Can pesticides harm the good insects, fungi, and microorganisms living in the soil?
Most pesticides are non-selective. This means that a pesticide application will kill any pest it comes into contact with. It is important to scout fields properly to ensure a pesticide application is necessary to preserve the beneficial organisms in the soil.
Cover Crop Grazing
How does cover crop grazing work?
a. In a row crop system, this happens before planting of the cash crop. You would graze your livestock in the fall after harvest and in the spring before the cash crop planting. We do this as an additional feed source while still maintaining living root.
b. Don’t graze too hard before winter. It’s critical to get the cover crop established early to ensure you’re able to get grazing in and ideally regrowth into winter. Corn stalks are also common, but if you go that route, you will want to plant warm season annuals in early spring instead of cool season grasses to overwinter.
c. The number one reason of grazing is to feed your animals (obviously), but the soil health benefits are key. Grazing also helps draw the carbon down into the soil causing the plant to grow back stronger and better. However, it is crucial to leave adequate rest time between grazing rotations in order to give the plant time to rest and recuperate. Rotational grazing is king.
When do you start grazing?
a. You should start grazing when the grass is at least 10-12 inches tall, graze the grass down to 6 inches ideally and rotate them off in order to let the grass grow back and rejuvenate. The general rule is to take half and leave half.
b. If you plant the grass at the end of April, you can graze the ground for around 4-6 weeks in May-June when the grass gets tall enough. Usually at the L4 stage is good with warm season grasses and L3 for cool seasons.
How can grazing benefit your crops?
a. Grazing builds organic matter faster than any other practices out there due to the carbon drawdown. This stimulates the microbial activity in the soil as the carbon levels increase.
b. You need to watch out for soil compaction when grazing. Something to help with this is rotating the water point throughout the pasture/field. A strip till system could also work but is not encouraged unless it’s unavoidable.
c. A good cover to put in on a grazing plan would be radishes, because they have a large taproot that reaches down deep into the soil.
d. It’s best to plant beans rather than corn after grazing because of the carbon buildup associated with grass grazing. Another reason is also due to beans being able to emerge slightly easier than corn in more compacted settings.