As harvest wraps up farmers are turning their attention to other tasks, like soil testing. 

Testing in the fall can give farmers more time in the Spring when they are trying to get the crop in.

It also helps with purchasing plans, like buying fertilizer now, before the price increases in the Spring.

Canola Council of Canada Agronomy Specialist Warren Ward says soil testing is a way for growers to determine just what nutrients are in the soil.

"It's always good to know how much is left in there. So, that when you are planning for next year you can know that maybe you don't need to apply the full rate, that you would have without that carryover. In other areas where yield was more normal, or they hit their yield target. Chances are there's going to be less nutrient reserves left in that soil."

Ward suggests farmers look at doing that soil test when the soil temperatures cool to about 10 degrees Celcius.

He notes that this fall, the Canola Council of Canada launched its 4R Advantage program.

Under the program, growers can apply for funding to help cover the costs associated with best management practices focused for nitrogen management. 

Growers who have a "4R Nutrient Stewardship Plan" in place can receive, up to 85 per cent of eligible costs to a maximum of $12,000 per farm each year.

Included in the program are costs associated with soil testing, enhanced efficiency fertilizer, preferred application and field zone mapping.

Ward adds soil testing is key as various crops, like canola, can pull different levels of nutrients into the plant throughout the growing season. 

"Although it does use a little bit more sulphur than many of the other annual crops that we grow, it's also a fairly high user of nitrogen, and phosphorus as well. Potassium is an interesting one. It takes up a lot of potassium, but it turns a lot of that back in terms of the plant residue, that's left behind as well. So again, when you get results from your soil tests, working through the right rate does take into account what that uptake is going to be for that plant, or for that crop."

Knowing what is in your soil, and what you have to work with is key.

Over applying can be a hit to the pocketbook, while under fertilizing can leave money on the table in terms of yield.

Ward adds it's always good idea to double check with your local agronomist, just to make sure that everything that the lab is recommending makes sense on your farm.

Funding for Canola 4R Advantage comes from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Agricultural Climate Solutions – On-Farm Climate Action Fund.

More information on the Canola Council of Canada's 4R Advantage plan is available here.