Fall is a busy time for farmers, as the growing season's hard work finally sees its payoff. But for most farmers, it’s also time to evaluate the previous year’s successes and struggles carefully. And it’s time to start preparations for next year’s crop – because there’s no rest for the weary, right?
Building a Fertilizer Budget Plan for Next Year
Crop input and commodity prices have made farmers even more interested in how well their crop utilizes every ounce of nutrients they put down.
To understand what to expect in a fertilizer budget, farmers should start with the nutrients in their soil. A soil sample helps assess the soil and determine what adjustments need to be made to help the crop reach its fullest health and yield potential. Knowing what you have is essential, so you don’t overapply, wasting time and money.
It’s also important to know your nutrient removal rates, combine them with your yield goals and apply responsibly. Also, you need to be aware of and ready to address the nutrient needs of deficient or lower-yielding portions of your fields. Starter helps your crop have a more successful emergence, but it also includes nutrients you should consider as you plan your overall nutrient needs.
Biostimulants are a tool to consider for farmers looking to get the most from their fertilizer investment. Biostimulants encourage microbial activity in the soil, meaning more efficient fertilizer use. Due to less than ideal soil conditions, microbes in the soil, tasked with breaking down soil organic matter and converting nutrients into a form the plant can access, are often dormant.
By adding biostimulants to your input mix, you can improve your crop’s access to nutrients already in the soil. This improvement lets farmers apply less fertilizer and still maintain or increase yield. Generate®, a biostimulant from Agnition, has been shown to increase microbial activity by almost 22%, increasing the availability of macro-and micronutrients. In two-year trials in the Midwest, replacing starter fertilizer with Generate improved yields by an average of more than 3.5 bushels per acre. When fertilizer rates were reduced by 25%, Generate increased total yield by 7.45 bushels-per-acre in separate corn-on-corn trials.
A Deeper Dive on Fall Soil Sampling
Taking soil samples from your fields is the best way to assess the overall health of your soil and decide if any adjustments need to be made before the next cropping season to help your crop reach its full potential.
The data in a soil sample can give you some critical insights into the health of your fields.
Information on soil pH, fertility and organic matter content can help producers make decisions that will improve production practices for years.
Soil pH: Because many row crops grow well in slightly acidic soils, soil tests can help farmers test their soil pH and make adjustments to ensure their crop has the foundational opportunity to succeed.
Fertility: A soil test can help farmers assess their soil’s nutrient levels and determine their need for additional fertilizer applications.
Organic matter: Many soil tests account for soil organic matter, so farmers can modify their nitrogen recs based on the organic matter.
Fall is an excellent time for soil sampling, as it often gives farmers a broader, less busy window to address any issues they might find.
Working with High pH Soils
Sometimes a soil test will show that soils have a higher than ideal pH. Any soil pH over 8 is generally considered high or alkaline. High pH soils lessen plant availability of boron, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus and zinc – all of which are important for overall plant health – and are often higher in calcium, magnesium, molybdenum and sodium. These imbalances can make it hard for plants to complete their essential functions, meaning they can’t efficiently utilize nutrients to create yield.
Adding acid-forming components such as sulfur can help bring down high pH; over time, many fertilizer formulations can bring down pH levels. Often though, as the biggest concern is the lack of nutrient availability, it is more efficient to add easily accessible nutrition than to try to bring down the soil pH. Using a starter fertilizer is an excellent way to add these essentials. Adding phosphorus and/or iron in-furrow can help encourage uptake before the nutrition gets tied-up in the soil.
Procure® by Agnition enhances plant health and dark, green leaves to create crops that better withstand seasonal stresses. Its placement in-furrow encourages early growth, helping plants take up nutrients faster – before they become unavailable in the alkaline soils. An application of Procure increases carbon dioxide intake, promotes staygreen and plant health and can lead to higher yields.
Winter Wheat is a Part of Many Fall Plans
For many row crop farmers, winter wheat is an essential part of the crop rotation. Serving as a cover crop or a cash crop, winter wheat is generally planted in the fall and harvested early the following summer. Winter wheat differs from summer wheat in that it has to go through vernalization, a process in which a plant has to go through low temperatures to transition to the reproductive growth stage.
Selecting the best variety, seeding rate and planting date for your farms and region is essential for performance success with winter wheat. It’s also vital to plant into stubble to help with protection from the cold weather and to choose a more winterhardy variety if necessary. Winter wheat does exceptionally well with split applications, so planning your nitrogen applications to match up when the wheat needs it most can also be beneficial.
Commence® seed treatment for wheat can get your crop off to a solid start. Commence stimulates microbes in the soil near the plant to deliver the nutrients plants need, encouraging healthier plants and higher yields through faster emergence, improved plant vigor and stress tolerance, robust root structure and greater biomass. Farmers can also use Commence in conjunction with other seed treatments.
Let Agnition Be Your Partner
At Agnition, we want to help you stretch your fertilizer dollars further. Our Generate, Commence and Procure product lines were developed because we don’t want to see any nutrients wasted. Keeping your crop at optimum performance is a part of that goal.
Agnition’s patented Microbial Catalyst® technology powers all of our products by stimulating microbes to increase enzymatic activity, break down plant matter and release more nutrients in the soil for improved crop emergence, early vigor, healthier plants and higher yields.