Veteran agri-coach Elston Solberg encourages young agronomists to ‘think like a plant’

Elston Solberg, Sure Growth field day

Agriculture has a knack for keeping you humble. Just when you figure one thing out, you realize behind every door there is an entire room of unknowns.

Sure Growth Technologies recently had their field day at Aberhart Farms, just north of Marchwell, SK. One of the presenters was Elston Solberg, currently a senior agri-coach with Agritrend. Solberg will soon be starting a new venture, Earth Dirt Soil, which will continue Solberg’s passion for the field of agronomy.

There was a time when understanding the importance of the ratio between nitrogen and sulphur, for canola, was cutting edge agronomy. Now, we recognize that ratio is only the beginning of where the science of agronomy has to go. Solberg says, “When you look at your tissue test there’s three key ratios that we need to pay attention to. The first one is your N-to-S ratio (nitrogen to sulphur). Second is your N-to-K ratio (nitrogen to potassium) and your third is calcium to boron ratio. So the next question is, ‘well why?'” (Story continues below)

The N- to-S ratio, Solberg says, “is all all about amino acids.” Though sulphur is part of the makeup of only two amino acids, these two monitor the production of all the other amino acids. This is why agronomists first noted that if farmers added too much nitrogen and neglected the sulphur, they could do more harm than good.

Once you get the nitrogen to sulphur balanced then it is important to have the nitrogen to potassium ratio right. Solberg says, “If you want to grow a bushel of canola it needs 3.3 pounds of nitrogen and it needs 2.2 to 2.4 pounds of potassium. And so that’s why the ratio is so important, because the demand for potassium from about the elongation stage to bloom is just about straight up.”

The third vital ratio is calcium to boron. Solberg explains, “If calcium is my hand, boron is the glove. Boron is the nutrient that helps strengthen the cell walls even more. It;s involved in driving roots. It’s involved in cell differentiation. It’s involved in pollination. It’s involved in so many things.”

Solberg is hoping to help younger agronomist have a more holistic view of agronomy. Having an understanding of ratios and balance is an important part of understanding how a plant works. It’s all a part of what Solberg calls, ‘thinking like a plant.’

 

Dale Leftwich

Dale Leftwich farmed for over twenty years and throughout that time worked as an agronomist, seed manager and businessman. He has been on the Boards of SaskCanola, Canadian Canola Growers and Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan. He also help develop the documentary License to Farm.

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