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Director of Training and Education (Based in Aurora, NE)
Welcome to a weekly feature here on From Field to Field where we spotlight one of Servi-Tech’s own professionals in the field.
Orvin Bontrager has worked for Servi-Tech, Inc. for 33 years as a crop specialist, division manager and now as education director. Since 1984 he has worked in Aurora, NE and is responsible for consulting on 15,000 crop acres, supervising education and training programs for Servi-Tech crop service personnel, and managing several research projects.
Orvin has CCA, CPAg, and CPCC-I certifications and a voting member of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants.
Orvin was raised on a small-diversified farm in south central Kansas. He graduated from Kansas State University with a B.S. and from Texas A&M University with a M.S. degree in range science/weed science.
He and his wife, Linda, have been married for 35 years and have three children, Mona, Kim and Austin and two grandsons.
In his spare time, Orvin enjoys volunteering at his local church, and spending time camping, hiking and biking with his family.
By Orvin Bontrager
This is a continuation of the discussion about the changes in soil fertility over time based on various farming practices; particularly certified organic production verses farming practices that utilize fertilizers and pesticides.
The soil results I am presenting are composited soil samples obtained in the past 20-25 years, depending on the field represented. Each sample is a composite of 10-20 acres at the time of soil sampling. The same sample depth of 9-10 inches was performed and the soils were tested at the same soil testing laboratory.
Very little change has occurred in the organic matter results. This would give a good indication of the overall soil fertility of the fields. The first three years of the sampling period for each field were averaged and compared with the last three years that soil samples have been obtained.
The following table shows two certified organic fields compared with four conventional fields I have checked for the past 20-25 years.
The four conventional fields were chosen because their soil types are similar to the organic fields. They were a few of the fields on which I have the longest records available. The long term averages of the organic fields were 2.57% organic matter 20 years ago verses 2.56% now. The averages of the four selected conventional fields were 2.48% OM 20-25 years ago verses 2.39% now. Without the benefit of true replicated trials, I would consider these differences in OM to be non-significant.
I attended a presentation by A. E. “Johnny” Johnston, Rothamsted Research, at the AICC conference near Birmingham, UK in January. His long term research indicates that soil OM changes very slowly. It will reach equilibrium in time and we can’t affect or change it significantly.
Continued yearly monitoring of crop production fields is important to document how the soil organic matter is changing from the various cropping practices. Long term averages are important to monitor verses sporadic sampling that may show trends that are not truly occurring.