Agronomist wakes up each day eager to learn more about managing soil health

Agronomist wakes up each day eager to learn more about managing soil health
Nov 09, 2022
By Denise Faguy
Assistant Editor, North American Content,

Getting away from the “because we were told to” mentality

Steve McQueen, agronomy manager for Canada at Alpine — celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2023 — says that when he wakes up each morning, he starts his day with the mindset of “I’m going to be happy because I'm going to try to teach somebody something new, but I also get to learn something from farmers as well.”

He says farmers understand their farm better than anyone and that he always learns something from the farmers that he works with.

McQueen made his comments during a demonstration about fertilizer during the 2022 Risk Management Great Ontario Yield Tour.

McQueen believes the 2023 crop year started while the 2022 crops were still in the field. If a farmer looks out across their field, this year they might see some record yields. McQueen says farmers need to pay attention to why an area created excellent yield, “What can we learn from that it?”

Even farm equipment can have an impact on the next year's crop, if, for example, the equipment caused too much compaction. How soils are treated is important through the entire growing season to get ready for next year as well.

McQueen says the industry often talks about plants and solubility.

“We know that plants don't have teeth, right? So, they don't chew things. They don't have tongues, so they don't lick things off. Also, every nutrient relies on other nutrients. “

McQueen thinks well-informed producers need to be a little bit more cautious in their soil management. He says often farmers just do things because previously they were told to do it. For example, “when looking at soil samples if you have 18 parts per million of phosphorus, we multiply that by two, and it gives you 36, right? But why do we multiply it by two? Because you were told to.”

McQueen believes that it's important to have a deeper understanding of the soil’s health. What can a producer do to make sure that their nutrients are working more efficiently?

McQueen says with the price of fertilizers being what it is, farmers need to ensure they are getting efficiency out of what they are spending on fertilizer, as well as synergies to ensure everything works together cohesively.

McQueen gave the example of a farmer that added one liter of a micro package onto green beans. It turned into a 750-pound increase in the beans. It worked because it met a deficiency that the plant needed. It would not work on every farm, but McQueen says it did work on that farm because, very simply, it met the plant’s needs.

He also advised producers to consider combining nutrients. He explained that if you put phosphorus by itself, the soil and plants will get about 12% of the nutrient, but if a producer puts MPK together, it increases the uptake of the phosphorus to almost 22%, which is a big increase.

Watch to learn more from McQueen in the below 2022 Great Ontario Yield Tour video.

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