That plan should include current soil samples (taken within the last four crop years). A soil sample is a valuable tool, "a critical layer of information for determining what inputs we may be able to hold back...or push higher," said Loen.

Soil test results will reveal where nutrients are sufficient or lacking. "Remember that we have just come off two consecutive years of record yields," said Loen.  Record grain harvests translate into huge levels of nutrients now absent in the field, especially macro nutrients.

If nutrient levels are low -- proven only through soil testing -- cutting back on fertilizer may cut into, or even limit, yield potential. "After all," said Loen, "yield is king." The number of bushels makes or breaks every grower's bottom line, especially with the currently low commodity prices.

Federated's best recommendation for soil sampling is grid sampling, in 2.5-acre sections to get the best results and to show the variation across fields and soils. Grid sampling also allows Federated to use Variable Rate Technology (VRT) equipment to spread nutrients across a field.

"Bring in your current soil test results and we can help you understand all the numbers and their value to you," said Loen. Contact your Federated Agronomist to get help with sampling (grid or composite), or with any questions.