When evaluating your fertilizer needs for the upcoming crop year, always consider the agronomic practices and sources needed to meet your goals.
Higher Yields Equals Increased Nutrient Removal
We’re coming off a record-setting, high-yielding crop year; in some areas of the country, this marks the third highly productive year in a row. As we focus on soil fertilitySoil FertilityIncreasing (and maintaining) yields requires a full-system approach built from the ground up. That starts with a strong understanding of what your soil is capable of today, so you can improve it for tomorrow.
Learn More fundamentals, higher yields equate to higher nutrient removalNutrient RemovalA solid fertilizer strategy starts with an understanding of which nutrients are taken from the soil every time a crop is grown, and incorporating best management practices to replenish those nutrients.
Learn More. Harvesting a crop removes nitrogenNitrogenNitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for plant growth, development and reproduction. Despite nitrogen being one of the most abundant elements on earth, nitrogen deficiency is probably the most common nutritional problem affecting plants worldwide – nitrogen from the atmosphere and earth's crust is not directly available to plants.
Learn More (N), phosphorusPhosphorusOne of three primary nutrients, phosphorus (P) is essential for plant growth, and a plant must access it to complete its normal production cycle. Plants absorb P from the soil as primary and secondary orthophosphates (H2PO4- and HPO42-).
Learn More (P), potassiumPotassiumPotassium (K) is one of the essential nutrients and is taken up in significant amounts by crops. Potassium is vital to photosynthesis, protein synthesis and many other functions in plants. It’s classified as a macronutrient, as are nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Plants take up K in its ionic form (K+).
Learn More (K), and other macro- and micronutrientsMicronutrientsIn farming, big improvements often come in small packages. Supporting macro- and secondary nutrients with a sound approach to micronutrients is essential to plant growth and can play a profitable role in increasing yields.
Learn More from the field which require replenishment to maintain soil productivity for subsequent cropping seasons.
The December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report from the USDA indicated a 15.2-billion- bushel corn crop and a 175.3-bushel- per-acre average for 2016. That equates to an estimated 61 pounds of phosphate (P2O5) removed from every acre. The same report indicated a soybean harvest of 4.36 billion bushels, averaging 52.5 bushels/acre, which will remove 63 pounds/acre of potassium oxide (K2O) from U.S. soils.
Unfortunately, regardless of how much a crop is worth per bushel, it’s still pulling just as many nutrients from the ground. For some, this will be the third straight year of very difficult decisions related to input costs. Those who have cut back on fertilizer costs may find themselves in a situation that’s very hard to rebound from if they don’t adjust their plans to address the effects of record yield.
Create a Crop Nutrition Plan
One way to shift your focus toward fertilizer fundamentals is by creating a crop nutrition plan for your operation. A major component of that includes soil testingSoil TestThe purpose of soil testing in high-yield farming is to determine the relative ability of soil to supply crop nutrients during a particular growing season.
Learn More. A soil test provides a starting point for your field that becomes the baseline for developing a well-thought- out plan. Best practices for soil tests consist of the following:
Best practices for soil tests consist of the following:
- Use a quality soil sample probe rather than a spade.
- Pull a minimum of 8 to 12 cores to produce a representative sample of each area of interest (e.g., entire field, management zone, etc.). Pulling six to eight cores per area in grid-sampling situations is common.
- Core samples should always be pulled from a consistent depth. Standard topsoil depths include 6, 8 and 10 inches.
- Do not angle sample probe when collecting cores. The probe should be placed at a 90° angle to the ground.
- Mix sample cores in a clean plastic bucket (galvanized can affect results), and place in a properly labeled soil test bag — one for each sample. Write down the crop, a realistic yield goal and other pertinent information as requested by your soil test laboratory.