The Soil Fertility Checklist

When it comes to crop nutrition and your soil fertility plan, you need to make sure you've dotted your i's and crossed your t's. Checklists aren't for everyone, but defining a clear process to ensure you are properly covering bases is critical in the execution of a successful nutrient management plan. Feel free to use and print the Soil Fertility Checklist below as your starting point.

❑ Soil Sampling and Testing

  • Sample in spring (if fall sampling was not done)

    • This is the single best tool for fertility planning

  • Use proper sampling procedures

  • Determine within-field variability

    • This aids in avoiding under- or over-fertilizing

❑ Review Crop Production Records

  • Review last year's yield data and crop notes

  • Review past deficiency symptoms and other growth problems

  • Define all yield-limiting factors from last year's crop

  • Correct soil pH as needed

  • Consider insect, weed and soil compaction potentials

❑ Know the Plant Nutrients

  • Primary nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (used in the largest quantities by plants)

  • Secondary nutrients: calcium, magnesium and sulfur

  • Micronutrients: Nutrients used in very small quantities, such as boron, manganese and zinc, may need attention. Other micronutrients (iron, copper, chloride, nickel and molybdenum) require attention in some instances

  • *Primary, secondary and micronutrients can all be researched in the section of

❑ Set Yield Goals

  • Set realistic and challenging yield goals

    • Yield goals should be set for each and every field

❑ Start with Analysis of Past Yields

  • Evaluate management decisions and inputs that can be improved or changed

  • Start a three-to-five year yield improvement program with a goal to improve yields 10 to 20 percent per year

❑ Options For Starter Fertilizer

  • Consider methods of application and placement

    • Starter band placement may provide benefits in cool, wet springs, low-fertility situations, early planting and other high-stress situations

    • The "starter effect" generally disappears during the growing season in high-fertility fields

❑ Consult Local Fertility Experts

  • Talk to your local fertility experts

    • Many factors influence crop response to fertilizers. Local crop advisors, such as your fertilizer dealer, independent crop consultant, county agent or other supplier advisors, can provide invaluable advice when making fertilization decisions

❑ Finalize Nutrient Management Plans

  • Consider all factors and produce a plan

  • Include the quantity, placement and timing of nutrient applications

    • It is a best management practice to ensure adequate - but not excessive - nutrients are available to the growing crop

  • Develop a plan to achieve both production and environmental goals

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