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It’s Time for Some Crop Nutrition Decisions

January 10, 2014 by Dr. Kyle Freeman

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It’s Time for Some Crop Nutrition Decisions

There’s certainly a value to working proactively to avoid stresses before they’re apparent, especially when it comes to soil fertility. Perhaps, as you make plans for the 2014 season, it’s time to take into account your experience from past seasons to create a crop nutrition plan that can tackle fertility issues before they make their yield-robbing presence apparent.

Reacting to soil fertility will always be a part of what we do, but making firm crop nutrition decisions in advance plays a big role in pushing yields to the next level.

Once there is a nutrient problem that can be identified visually, yield loss has already started. Having a solid plan in place before the season begins can help eliminate that yield-inhibiting time frame between identification and reaction.

Phosphorus deficiency is a good example. The plant, typically, will grow out of phosphorus deficiency symptoms, because when these symptoms occur early in the season, it’s a root issue – the roots haven’t yet found available phosphorus. As that root mass grows, it finds phosphorus. But, by that point, the damage has already been done.

When it comes to addressing zinc deficiencies, it’s best to start with soil applications, which allow the plant to take zinc up through the roots. Foliar applications can also play an important role as part of a proactive approach to providing adequate crop nutrition, but it’s imperative to remember that timing can play a critical role in success of such an application. If visual signs of deficiency are evident and reacted to with a “rescue” application of zinc, yield has already been affected.

Of course, there are many variables that play a role in determining a quality crop nutrition plan, such as the efficiencies that can be created from appropriate application timing, soil and tissue test results, and the nutrients removed from last year’s crop. Managing all these variables in a cohesive plan can not only help limit yield loss, but prevent growers from getting behind on fertility issues where it’s difficult to catch up.

Growers should start crop nutrition plans with the soil. That’s the foundation. But they also need to firmly decide what they will do throughout the year to supplement that solid start. A grower who might leave some fertility decisions to be made in season will find that “maybes” can cost yield.

High-yield systems are rooted in sound, fundamental fertility decisions that are part of a strict plan heading into the growing season. Now is the time to start devising a plan that will rescue lost yield by limiting rescue applications.


Dr. Kyle Freeman is manager of new product development for The Mosaic Company. He is responsible for oversight and management of all research and product development efforts worldwide. Dr. Freeman and his team manage more than 600 small-plot research trials around the world and initiated a commercial trial program with more than 200 locations in 2012.

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