Even before the 2013 crop is in the bin, growers should begin putting thought into how they will proactively manage their 2014 fertility programs. One of the most important investments made in a crop season, a fertility program should be looked at holistically, and involve preparatory steps and decisions long before winter’s downtime.
Consider the following when planning next year’s crop nutrition program:
Are you planning a change in your equipment? Considerations for tillage, planting and application equipment can have a sizable impact on what fertilizer program your retailer may prescribe. For example, will your residue management change across acreages or only on certain soil types? Are you increasing your amount of acres planted with a variable-rate planting method? Your retailer will likely want to start the discussion about your fertility plans by first understanding your current equipment and future purchase plans.
While not the only evaluation method necessary, a proper and well-executed in-season soil tests can reveal nutrient usage and provide an estimate for how much remaining fertilizer will be available for next year’s crop. Take separate samples in areas with differences in previous management, varying soil types and spots of depression. For other tools and tips on soil testing, refer to this recent CropNutrition.com blog post.
An important part of a fertility program is to set a long-term plan, and be sure to share those production goals with your retailer or agronomist. They may already help you address field-by-field issues, but how much does your retailer know about your long-term plans? Is it your goal to achieve a farm-wide average of 250 bushels per acre (or beyond) within the next five years? As with scheduling next year’s application program, longer-term communication of yield goals is important.
Taking time to learn
Are your crops experiencing symptoms of nutrient deficiency this year that were previously unseen? Take time to observe, and even photograph, symptoms of nutrient deficiencies in your crops. In talking with your retailer or agronomist, you will likely be better prepared to visually show and discuss the symptoms you were seeing in your fields. For visual scouting tips, visit the Periodic Table of Crop Nutrients and scroll through deficiency photos in each of the 17 nutrients.