With recent increases in crop input and commodity prices, farmers want to ensure that every unit of fertilizer is being used efficiently. Where do you start when building your fertilizer budget? Here are six considerations as you make decisions for the next cropping year.
Start with a soil sample. A soil sample allows you to assess the nutrients available in the soil and develop a fertilizer plan that will meet your crop’s yield goals while not over applying — a waste of time and money and an environmentally detrimental practice. Sampling every three years or once in each crop rotation cycle is commonly accepted.
Consider your yield goals. Every bushel grown takes a certain amount of nutrients out of the soil. For example, a bushel of corn removes about 0.9 pounds of nitrogen (N), 0.37 pounds of phosphate (P2O5), and 0.27 pounds of potash (K2O). Combining these nutrient removal rates with calculations on your expected yield goals can help keep fertilizer calculations more accurate.
Don’t forget your starter. If starter fertilizers are a part of your on-farm practices, remember to consider those nutrients in your calculations.
Look for deficiency or lower yields. Spots that saw deficiencies may need a little extra nutrition for the coming crop.
Consider your long-term plan for the field. If you own the field or plan to farm it for an extended period, make sure fertilizer applications are a part of planning ahead as well. However, if the field may change purposes next year or may not be part of your acres, this may be a year to consider only applying what's necessary for the crop at hand.
Buy fertilizer before the end of the year. Retailers often allow you to lock in prices to meet their year-end and prepay goals and your tax plan. Buying before January will enable you to plan and avoid price hikes that may come in the New Year.
How to Maximize Your Next Fertilizer Investment
Biostimulants aren't fertilizers, but they help your fertilizer work more efficiently. These biological crop additives can help plants access nutrients tied up in the soil. Maximizing fertilizer uptake is especially significant in a high-cost fertilizer market.
Biostimulants encourage microbial activity in the soil. These microbes break down soil organic matter (OM), taking nutrients and converting them to a chemical form the plant can easily access. This addition means more efficient fertilizer applications.
By adding biostimulants to your input mix, you can improve your crop’s access to nutrients already in the soil. These microbes are often dormant in the soil, so they aren’t breaking down the OM and making the nutrients more available. This addition allows farmers to apply less fertilizer and increase yield, thanks to the plant health benefits of the biostimulant.
Replace Your Starter Fertilizer
In fields treated with Generate® + Procure® by Agnition, microbial activity increased by almost 22%. Research shows that using Generate + Procure can double cellulosic activity, increasing the availability of macro-and micronutrients. Tests conducted on soils treated with Generate + Procure resulted in an 18% increase in the update of N and increases of 10% to 12% in the uptake of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
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. In separate corn-on-corn rotation trials, Generate combined with NPK increased total yield by 9.44 bushels-per-acre with standard NPK rates and by 7.45 bushels-per-acre when NPK was reduced to 75% of normal.