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Improving soil quality was a key focus for the Sask Soil Conference

When it comes to getting the best quality crop ... it all comes down to production and management and that starts with a soil test.

That soil test provides the base for what you have as far as nutrients in the soil to work with and then you can build off that.

Improving soil quality in semi-arid conditions was one of the presentations during the SaskSoils conference last week.

Agronomist Troy LaForge farms at Cadillac, Saskatchewan, and talked about how he's worked to build up the organic soil on his farm

When LaForge purchased the land in 2009, the soil had been farmed with little to no fertilizer, and based on a soil test at the time the organic matter was 1.4 per cent and 9 parts per million of available phosphorous.

"In 14 years, we have been able to build to a 2.2% organic matter and our phos is very high now. I'm actually starting a program to meter that (phos) back now. My goal is to have that number between 20 and 25 ppm."

Having a strong organic base is key to help carry the crop while added nutrients can also help to improve crop quality and yield.

LaForge is the head agronomist for Rack Petroleum’s Ultimate Yield Management Institute and has been doing some field-scale research on improving soil organic matter and phosphorus levels.

They focused on fields around Unity (Saskatchewan) which are known to be very productive, but they do have low phosphate levels from some of their management practices.

In 2015, they wanted to see what would happen if you mine phosphate and potassium, if you maintain it or build it, and what impact it would have on production over time.

"So we pull onto this field, we seed north and south and we have 37 different rates of phosphorus and potassium. Anywhere from zero phosphate to 100 phosphate and anywhere from zero potassium to 60 potassium. "

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