Nutrient Stratification — You Have It, Here’s How You Remedy It
15 Nov 2228 min 26 sec

The smarter we get the more we realize we don’t know, or at least, didn’t know. So it goes with nutrient stratification in your fields. The traditional (easy) answer has been to throw more fertility at the problem, but as XA's Kelly Garrett says, “I believe we often times have more than adequate fertility, it’s just not where it needs to be or readily available.” And that pretty much sums up the stratification problem — your top few inches of soil are ripe with fertility, but the water and uptake roots are deeper where there’s a nutrient void. Shaun Guthmiller with Concept Agritek explains how to diagnose and remedy nutrient stratification.

Presented by Advanced Drainage Systems

00:00 You've got nutrients and the answer usually has been to just keep piling more stuff out there, you know pour it on 00:06 pour it on. That's what we like to do in agriculture, man. Oh man, we're gonna get bumper crops just pour it on but sometimes it's not 00:12 even about pouring it on. It's just about the nutrients that your plants need are not where you need them to be this a 00:18 big issue uptake and getting nutrients into your plant as one of the big initiatives that we talk a lot about here at extreme 00:24 AG. Welcome to extremeags cutting the curved podcast where you get a guaranteed return on investment of your time as we cut your learning curve 00:34 with the information. You can apply to your farming operation immediately extreme AG, we've 00:40 already made the mistakes so you don't have to managing. Your Farm's Water Resources is a 00:46 critical component to a successful and sustainable farming operation Advanced Drainage Systems helps Farmers, just like you increase their 00:55 yields up to 30% with their technologically advanced Water Management products visit ads to see how they 01:04 can keep your business flowing. Now, here's your host Damien Mason well greens and welcome to another fantastic episode 01:12 of extreme AGS cutting the curve, it's me Damian Mason and we have Sean guthmiller. He is a district sales manager concept agrotech Sean and 01:21 I are going to talk about nutrient stratification, you know, we touched on this topic back at Kelly Garrett's Farm in Iowa this July and if you have not 01:30 seen or listened to that episode do your listener, I encourage you go and check it out, but we're not repeating what we did there. What we're talking 01:36 about is this real issue and I actually Sean kind of brought it up and that's why we were running with it. He's he's kind of the nutrient stratification guy. And so Sean's gonna 01:45 talk to us about this very issue Sean. Thanks for being here. Screen, how's it going, Damian? All right. So, um nutrients traffickation 01:52 we test not before and you said something pretty smart before we hit record on this right here, you said? All right. We got to dry situation in 02:01 The Dakotas. Just as a good example. It's dry. Pretty much west of about Omaha from from the can the border on down to Texas is dry. And I 02:10 said, okay. So once I had to do with nutrients explain and why this matters more in a dry year, it matters all the time why I 02:16 might matter more in a dry year like this. So anytime we have nutrient stratification and dry weather combinations. We cannot 02:24 take nutrients as well. So the big the biggest dilemma you have is you need water to get uptake of nutrients into the 02:33 plant. So when our top 0 to 6 inches is dry. Like I don't know if you're seeing what I'm seeing in some of these soils we're losing pliers in the cracks in our grounds. That means 02:42 we have zero more soil moisture going zero to six even further than that. So what does that do to our nutrients 02:51 that we've applied on the top surface and maybe only tilled in zero to four or no till and you got it all stratified in the 03:00 top two inches. We need to be getting nutrients deeper into our soil where we have more moisture. Yeah, so it's 03:06 really it's something that you know it but you just even then us bring it up. You can have all the more all the nutrients you want. 03:15 You can have this nutrient-dense stuff, but if it's dry. We need moisture to move the nutrients. I 03:22 mean, it's just you know, the Roots the Roots have to be where the moisture is, etc. Etc. So you need the root to be where the nutrient is and 03:28 you need to be moisture there because if you don't have those three things nutrients in the place where the roots are with the moisture, so it's 03:34 kind of interesting deal. You think well hell yes. Oh, why don't I think that and like you said, it's not 03:40 uncommon, you know here in Northern Indiana. We got 1.2 inches of rain the whole month of June and that's not typical for 03:46 us. And you know, there's a whole bunch of time where you're like that corn is holding on thanks to the genetics and the technology we've bred into you know our plants 03:55 but even then, It held on but could have done better when you like you say what if our moisture was down 04:03 there at 12 inches. I don't know if the corn Roots were down at 12 inches in you know in June. 04:09 You know what? The plants are only. Putting half tall so makes you think about that. So what's the answer? 04:16 I don't tell the nutrients they need a better do a better job of Distributing themselves. Well, I if we got all have that it'd be great. But you 04:25 know how it is. Well, unless you're blessed like some of us in the Nebraska is in Dakota's where you have irrigation or 04:31 even Illinois we can keep this the top six inches moist, but that's not the case for about 90% of the world right now. So we got to do is figure out 04:40 how to beat band or get nutrients deeper into our soil. So one is tillage but we're not going to be able to get too many nutrients down there with pillage. I 04:49 mean, even if you deep ripping and everything we talk about deep rip and you're gonna have you could have erosion too. So a lot of I know 04:58 I was watching a podcast here the other day and said a lot of nutrients that we've applied over the years ended up 05:05 in the Atlantic Ocean because windy roads and coming in the springtime. So how do we get those nutrients? We're just by nobody wants to 05:14 admit that you and I before we hit record both. We're Agronomy types and I want when I was a kid the T by 2000 was 05:22 a big thing from the US Department of Agriculture it Tiba tolerant tolerable amounts of erosion by the year 2000 meaning 05:28 you can you can have a certain amount of erosion because you're still making new soil through the Bedrock, etc. Etc. Mm-hmm. I'm 05:34 not sure we've ever achieved that, you know, we're still doing a boatload of chill tillage and when you pointed that out like it's not just the 05:40 erosion as bad because your long-term asset your ground is gonna be worth less you're losing nutrients because where do 05:46 you put your nutrients? It's usually in that top couple inches what he wrote. It ain't the sub soil that erodes is the top two inches, so 05:52 I hadn't even thought of that. Where where you're talking about this erosion issue? Do you think it's a bad 06:00 now? And it causes that nutrient loss that end of this little bit of side from stratification you need to bad now as it was 20 30 years ago. 06:09 I don't think we have a really good way of quantifying it is the gods honest answer. I mean if we were if I 06:15 if you told me we were all no till and stripping and doing all this stuff that was making it possible to 06:24 not blow away. Yeah, I think we're doing a good job, but we also don't have the tillage that we had before but at the same time we're having more 06:33 impactful weather systems. We're having heavier Windstar or heavier rainstorms heavier windstorms. I mean, I don't know if it's you saw 06:42 it but like around here in South Dakota. We were blowing 30 to 40 miles an hour in springtime and we're 06:48 blowing all that we had dust storms as bad as the thirties. I feel like just this last year. That's where all our nutrients are going. Thank 06:57 God. It wasn't as widespers 30s, but yeah wind breaks and we do some cover cropping but I think we're gonna do more of that. So those kind of practices by the way, you know, 07:06 you just talked about stratification and you said tillage You're almost encouraging tillage to 07:12 get nutrients to move. But we know that reducing tillage is ultimately much more positive 07:18 for soil Health. Yes, and that's the whole problem is and you're Dang if you do and danged if you don't and if you know what I mean trying to 07:27 say that the responsible way, but you you want the tillage to get it down there and that's one way we're doing it is moving more to a strip till so 07:36 we have a protective layer and going down deeper as well with the nutrients so we can get them down in the 8 to 12 inch range so we can get everybody taken 07:45 care of but at the same time, how do we keep? Um moving those nutrients down in that. Planter row and get the same yields. 07:57 So just using my example of where are the roots and that first let's say let's say four to six weeks after you plant corn if that 08:06 moisture gets driven clear down to the 12 inch level like it was here your roots aren't there yet. Your roots aren't 12 inches deep in four to six 08:15 weeks on a corn plant. I mean you'd be surprised they do get there pretty quickly. They aren't there. You have 08:22 to have the growth but at the same time. Your girl your plants are gonna grow as fast as they can to get to moisture and that's that's where all your roots 08:31 lead. I mean, that's one of the things we talk about about getting nutrients down lower is having previous crops 08:37 roots go down that and they're following the channels the earthworms roots with Biology on 08:43 it. Like that's one of the keys we look at foreign at concept is trying to get as much biology as on your roots as soon as 08:52 we can to get them pushing down deeper. Yeah. So what about the stratification issue? The person is listening this says, all right. What can I do? All right. Well, you can pray 09:01 for rain. You can do irrigation. What is it Kelly the episode we talked about in Iowa was kind of a neat deal. He uses subsurface 09:10 drip irrigation. And that was one of the main things you'd say. Oh, no, it's just all about water in the plants, but he talked 09:16 about no, it's about also getting the nutrients really need to be kind of pick up where we did there in July with the 09:22 sub-service drip angle on stratification. so one of the things we were doing is we introduced a bunch of bugs and biology violate XP in 09:31 there, which is a humic source sugars and biology as Kelly had been putting nutrients all summer long. So if we can get those roots growing down 24 inches 09:41 because this was in full can't right full canopy. He was almost a tassel time frame and he's putting this biology. Will you say will you wasting your time? Well, not 09:50 really. We're we have another three or four months for this biology to proliferate and those roots are 09:56 all around that deep. A line of water. So the roots are going are concentrated around that with the biology is going to expand and exude onto 10:08 those roots and they're gonna expand that profile. So it's got the nutrients there. It's got the water there and now it's got extra Roots because 10:17 the roots have been growing there all summer and that's what we're gonna get the breakdown of all these nutrients and that's really want 10:23 to keep Kelly's key to his yields is he's keeping the moisture deep down there. That's one of the nice Parts about drip tape is you got all the nutrients down 10:32 deep. You got all the nutrients surrounded by water and now he's including biology in there to increase the efficiency and do this plant. Okay. So let 10:41 me at you this you talked about you talked about the benefit of deep nutrients and then deep moisture. But again, that means 10:47 Our Roots have to get down there soybean plant doesn't have 14 inch Roots. I mean, so there's there's a problem 10:53 and I remember reading about this when we started using radishes those big big old tuber 10:59 ashes to in the idea there was it breaks compaction layer, but also it was the brought nutrients up. So don't 11:06 have a problem. Sometimes Sean with the stratification is the nutrients are too deep and in the routine there. 11:12 Well, yes, we have that. But at the same time we're hoping most of the time we're rotating that ground and as those the corn 11:21 plant from the previous year is pulled those nutrients up you're getting different levels of it and like we did Doug a root pit here last week up and 11:30 growing South Dakota and we're talking to Farmers and we did the same thing. We had. Um, we dug 11:36 all the way with the back hoe down to six feet deep and still had corn Roots six feet deep last week and then we dug a bean being pitted 11:45 corn root six feet deep. You're sure you're not making this up not making enough. I didn't think it was possible and honestly you would 11:54 be surprised at how many roots were amazingly I can't explain the mass that without showing a picture of it but they really had deep mass of roots growing 12:08 that deal. I thought for sure it would only be that water uptake Roots but there was a lot of fine root hairs on it that deep even when I was really so 12:17 John answer me this though. Is there is there a problem with nutrients being too deep? You know, like I said, that was one of the big selling points of these deep these deep 12:26 deep radishes. Was that it back to layer but also brought nutrients up and it unstratified your nutrients by 12:32 bringing them up and you're saying I don't think it's a problem with them being too deep. 12:36 I I mean the problem that you have is if you take a soil sample and this is another thing we did last week because I got soil samples in my bag right now is you take 12:45 a soil sample at zero to two two to four six to eight then we take one at 12 14 16 and you take all those 12:54 soil samples. You have nutrient stratification. All your nutrients are in the zero to two to two to four. Now as you get lower you increase your 13:03 usually increase your pH you increase your calcium you increase your magnesium, but you're losing your phosphorus potassium 13:12 and all the ones that the plants really hungry for at that time frame. So if you don't have biology and Roots growing there breaking 13:22 those nutrients down and that soil colloid Bonds in the soil that deep and then that's where your TAP roots your radishes are. 13:31 They're breaking down those bonds that we've created with calcium phosphate and magnesium phosph. 13:36 A potassium down there if you have those breaking down at that level and then pulling up that's when you're getting that late season push when 13:45 you're you get a ring and you get this your plants been holding on that long. You got the rain those those nutrients that were pulled up from Deep. Yeah, they're coming 13:54 up there. All right seriously is not a problem. They're too deep. I guess that was the long story short. It's now problems 14:00 nutrients being too deep. You don't think it's an issue. Well, we're talking about two 14:06 different things at the same time. So are those nutrients available deep not necessarily unless roots are down there to be able to break it down. Okay, 14:15 and If they are because you pull a simple soil sample, you'll see there's no nutrients down there. But what is breaking them down? Okay, and then I 14:25 wanna throw another one either because we talked about it and this is something that was new to me. And you know, I I'm not 14:31 I'm not as well versed certainly as a the extreme ad guys. Are you about this but I never realized how important calcium was and so didn't we have a 14:40 bit of a little tangent over there and Kelly's we talked about unstratifying nutrients, but also you need calcium involved because calcium 14:50 is what helps everything move kind of help me help me remember that discussion. So we like we talked about it Kelly's kelseyum is very important in 14:59 cell wall retention and bringing all these nutrients in so what calcium really does is kind of like in a human body. We need 15:08 calcium when we're really young and really old. So if you look at a plants like really early in the 15:14 plans production, it's for sale retention helping building. Those building blocks of you're building the foundation. 15:19 That's when you need the calcium. And then when you're packing in starch, which is really important Kelly's case when 15:25 he's shooting for 400 plus bushel corn. So if you want all that all those building blocks and all that starts packing in the back end you got 15:34 to be really sucking up those nutrients. Well, the problem with calcium is it's abundant in our soils, but we're not able to pull it up. So when 15:43 you're applying like calcium calcium products like cowboy or some of these other foliar ones, we're spoon feeding it in there because the roots are 15:53 concentrate on taking up the easy ones like potassium nitrogen phosphorus, you know, you're big your big three, you're you're contrary of 16:03 a big three. That's what we've all that's all we ever Castro, but now we're getting better at it. And now it's like Beyond in PK and that's 16:09 the other stuff. So the calcium It becomes more a factor and we think about it more now than we did certainly a decade ago. Right? So you 16:17 use a product like yours cowboy and wouldn't he putting it through was he putting that through his subsurface as well? Yep, he's running back either drip team. So 16:26 the person that's listening to this is I don't have drip tape and I want to make sure I don't have stratified nutrients. How 16:32 do I how does calcium help me and how can I do it? I know like we're doing a lot of the calcium Cowboy running it in drip. Why drops 16:41 or we're putting it spoon feeding your right beside the row that all times so that's the next part about it to it and with nutrient stratification if we do 16:50 have these nutrients tied up in the top four inches, and we're not able to get these nutrients into 16:56 the plant. How can we make it more available? So if we're wide dropping most of the time if you see any 17:02 do on your plants or anything like that, if you go out there in the early morning all that water funnels down the Plant and 17:11 Within the top the bottom two inches of that plant. So you're always gonna have moisture. That's one of the keys to why drops working why why it works so 17:20 well is all that do even if we don't have true moisture that do will make a band about this wide around now's plant roots where we're dropping those 17:29 wide drops and those roots have moisture to actually be able to suck nutrients right there. Yeah. So even a dry period helps us so you're saying the kills him then 17:38 even applied through a application like a wide drop. We'll put it there and it will be some moisture enough then it does get it to where it moves the nutrients and 17:47 then to the person that's listening. This is alright if I how do I know if I have a nutrient stratification problem? 17:53 I mean, I know this is hard to believe you. But every person on Earth has a nutrient stratification problem, but the way to 18:02 test it is just to go out and do like I said take us take a soil sample at zero to two take a soil sign about two to four four to six six to 18:11 eight and then just keep going down the line and you can see where all your nutrients are at a level but you 18:17 know, nobody thinks nobody's everybody says I took soil samples and I didn't agree. I did everything right you're saying yeah now 18:23 do it imagine gritting the actual profile. That's what we're talking about gritting your profile of your soil. Like you just said so my digging 18:33 a pit to do that. No, you can go out and do just like you're doing like when we take Soul samples for taking zero to six and zero to eight samples and then 18:42 even if you're doing nitrate you're doing six to 24. So what I'm trying to do is like we're we're looking at the ground as a flat surface. Yeah, we really 18:51 need to do is look D and go deep as well because we want those roots to grow deep The Roots aren't going just pancake flat 18:59 and they they technically grow like this in a triangle going down. So the top here if you're listening to this and you're driving your tractor and 19:08 you're listening you're not watching. He just did a very demonstrative hand to display where he made it like a like a 19:15 triangle with his hands. It was very it was very illustrative. Okay. No, you're fine. But like when I tell guys that is 19:24 think about your roots when they're growing especially in a corn plant. If you got that Top plant coming out that 19:30 need to be going diagonals 15 inches down in the center of that road. That's where all those nutrients and moisture and all that is going so we 19:39 need to be able to take that and think about where the nutrients need to be placed. They need to be placed real close to the row where the 19:48 moisture is one two, there's not a whole bunch of roots that are growing perpendicular and corn plants that way they're they just don't grow they 19:57 might grow about four to five inches To the east or west of the plan if you know what I mean, but they're really going south and we got to be 20:05 putting all those new getting nutrient availability in those deeper zones to only unlock some of these extra yield profiles that we're trying 20:14 to do. So question for you, then is you're you're encouraging a person to look past just a traditional Soul sample and then kind of 20:25 gritting it on a profile meaning down through the whole zero to to four four 20:31 six Etc. But you're thinking that the big the big tell is gonna be when you get to that six to 12 because that's where you're going to usually end up having more of your moisture. Right? Correct. You're 20:40 gonna have most your moisture at that six to 12. I mean, this comes from a guy who watches moisture probes a lot because of irrigation. So even 20:49 if you go down to this, we're we take we have moisture probes at 12 inches. 24 inches and 36 inches if 20:57 you pull up one of those moisture profiles, I never get out of the zero to twelve more like I'm fluctuating really hard in that zero 21:06 to 12 moisture, but my 24 and 26 moisture stay pretty consistent. So if you have nutrients at that level, you will be pulling them up most 21:15 of the year. Yeah, and then the person that says, okay. Well it turns out I've got almost all my stuff is in the first six inches because that's 21:21 not uncommon for the top soil. Then you're gonna tell that person to do what 21:25 Alright get your nutrients Deeper by either banding or you're gonna have to get them the nutrients as close to that. 21:32 Plant root like when you're put say it's got to be later season when the roots are fully developed and you're getting within two inches of that stock because that's 21:41 where most of the moisture is going to be. And if you're spreading it based like across the whole field. There's not a whole bunch in that middle 15 inches 21:50 that's getting it. You might get the eight inches to the west and 8 inches to the side. But if you got 30 inch row, there's 15 inches in there that the roots 21:59 aren't really exploring right now, which is a little bit counter to what most people would think also because you're like, wait a minute. 22:05 I don't even thought about going and grabbing soil sample from the from the 8 to 12 inch range. I mean, it's just it's 22:11 it's something we normally talk about To go find out there's a lot of nutrients down there or or there's or there's not and you know, it's just 22:21 you're gonna learn that so what's your closing thought on this anything that we we're talking about the nutrient 22:27 stratification Sean. You just said everybody has this problem and that's because moisture profiles and because obviously what plants do 22:36 Is this the next big Horizon like we're going to find out just kind of like. 22:40 You know, there's stuff that we do now that we didn't do 30 years ago or like holy crap. Why didn't we just figure this out long time 22:46 ago? We got plenty of stuff out there. You're not Kelly's big boys. Like I never find out we probably have enough fertility. We're just 22:52 not getting it. Yeah, and I mean, I think the big thing is we're what we're developing over time is 22:59 when we hit these new yield echelons of 300 400 bushel. We're figuring out we need higher nutrient volumes throughout the profile throughout 23:09 the year and at numbers that we didn't think were possible. So what are the things we can do to kind of increase that volume deeper 23:18 down below? Well one you can deep man your nutrients two, you can increase your biology deeper and lower 23:27 volumes are deeper in your soil to help break down those nutrients that are out there. You can apply like we have sweet 23:36 success, but you can apply sugars over the top like molasses base sugars to help root exudates dump 23:42 out more acidifying um sugars deeper down in the soil, which will then turn increase biological activity deeper down 23:52 and there's plenty of other cover crops and different rooting structures. I think that's one thing we haven't talked 24:03 about is different rooting structures. Produce or suck up different nutrients kind of like you talk with the tillage radishes. Yeah, maybe the 24:12 next Echelon of getting yield out there is having a corn crop and a bean rotation and wheat rotation with a huge cover 24:21 clot blend to help pull up those deep nutrients because one of the things we have is 24:26 If we're I know my family's to blame for it, just like everybody is we like growing corn. So we're gonna grow corn five years in a row. Yeah, right only induces 24:35 so much root structure into your soil, and we really need to get back to A big broad stem of roots. I've 24:43 hypothesized before Sean that a Midwestern farmer would almost pay you to go out and plant corn because I think they 24:52 like planting it they like driving by it. But by God, you know what they're really like running the combine through it and I gotta admit. 24:58 I'm right there with you. I mean, it's just it's neat. It's just it's just neat to see is need to watch and all that real matter going crazy. 25:04 So you just told us the ways to about testing with you said the ways to remedy it the remediation of so of nutrient stratification a cover 25:13 cropping blend. Moving your water you talk about products like, you know a cowboy or you talk about then 25:22 that helps move nutrients. It makes a plant. Like you said you need calcium when you're a baby and you when you're old, right? So double that for the plant thing and then 25:31 you also said something about sugar that we hadn't really talked much about. I know like Chad Henderson is big on man. He's he's all about setting that 25:40 sugar sugar sugar. So the first one you said, I forgot was one of your recommendations on moving no biology getting biology deep 25:49 in your soil and getting those biology to break help break down nutrients. That's right. All right, I think we 25:55 got it. So that's how you that's how you correct nutrient stratification. And you said something pretty smart. And I 26:01 think it's accurate. You said everybody's listening to this has a nutrient stratification problem. 26:06 That's the way profiles of soil work. I mean, that's just that's and and you're not gonna unless you are irrigated and 26:12 you can absolutely move it even then you're still gonna have the issue irrigation doesn't fix it either. I've got guys that have applied like 26:18 you go from Northwest, Iowa where they've applied millions of pounds of manure all the way to the 26:24 guys and Western South Dakota that only fertilized when it's a good good weather, so it doesn't matter whether you've done 26:33 it that way the nutrients just building the top zero to six and we got to get them deeper. Got it. All right, if you all learn more about Sean, you 26:42 can find Sean goth Miller nutrient stratification expert. He's a DSM district sales manager for concept Agate covers the Dakotas 26:51 and Nebraska part of Iowa, and he can be reached at if they want to speak to you directly how they find you they can either 27:00 call me at 605 857-0775 or they can find me at Updated and they can get a hold of me from there. That's our friend's concept agrate Tech. We've 27:12 recorded different stuff with them. And that's AGR i t e k concept until next time thanks for being here Sean. Thanks, Damian. Have a 27:21 good one. Thanks for being here. Also, dear listener and reminder. There's so much great stuff at the extreme AG website share it with 27:27 somebody that can benefit from this. You know, what 100? I've already recorded over a hundred of these podcasts and 27:33 also all the videos we do on site. I've been to all these guys Farms. I've been to the commodity classic. I've been to the AG PhD event up 27:40 in Baltic. We've been so Farm progress show so dear listener, please share these videos and audios with someone that can benefit from them because we're here 27:49 to help you improve your farming game. That's what we do here at extreme AG. 27:53 until next time that's a wrap for this episode of cutting the curve, but there's plenty more check out where 28:02 you can find past episodes instructional videos and articles to help you squeeze more profit out of your farm cutting. The curve is 28:11 brought to you by Advanced Drainage Systems the leader in agriculture Water Management Solutions.