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4 steps to take this winter for a successful spring crop

“Winter is coming.” While our winters don’t last as long as those in Westeros of the “Game of Thrones,” preparation is key in readying ourselves for the coming spring.

Once harvest is complete, it is the perfect time to take stock of the previous growing season and look ahead to what the next year will bring. In particular, we have four winter planning suggestions for growers to maximize the potential of their operation in the coming seasons.

Soil testing:

Post-harvest is an important time to get your soil testing done. The testing will create a baseline for spring and help you plan for nutrient applications. It can also allow for more economical alternatives to nutrient applications that are usually administered in the spring. For example, phosphorus and potassium tend to be more economical during the offseason.

“Historically, the least expensive time to buy phosphorus and potassium is late in the year,” said Chuck McKenna, Alltech Crop Science sales manager. “As soon as facilities start filling up with those ingredients, the price goes up.”

McKenna also noted that applying these nutrients in late autumn and winter frees up the grower to potentially only apply nitrogen, if needed, in the spring.

Cover cropping:

The use of cover crops in autumn and winter allows for increased aeration and water-holding capability in the soil. A growing crop will also help support microbes in the soil and allow them to break down organic matter well into the winter and spring. Depending on the blend of cover the grower chooses, it can also target compaction and weed control issues.

Weed control:

An effective weed control program will allow you to plant earlier, as the soils will tend to warm up faster if they are not affected by a weed problem. If there is a problem with breakthrough weeds or weeds that haven’t been seen before, this is a good time to plan for how to manage these challenges.

Review the information from your yield monitor:

Are you finding that there are trouble spots that you are not able to see? Is there an issue with sudden death syndrome that was not noticeable while the crop was growing? Are there areas that are more susceptible to weeds, therefore decreasing yield? Have insects caused a problem with your yields? A bird’s-eye view from the yield monitor, paired with the field record, will give you a broader image of what is going on in the field.

In order to make the most of the time between harvest and planting, gather all the information from the previous year and create a map for the upcoming year, including financial aspects such as ROI and whether or not you plan to use more acres for a particular crop. Sit down with your agronomist and talk about your issues and your plan now, because winter is coming but spring is just around the corner.

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