Improving No-Till

No-till fields are becoming very popular in the U.S., but there are several ways ag retailers and their grower-customers can improve their ability to produce crops.
No-till fields are becoming very popular in the U.S., but there are several ways ag retailers and their grower-customers can improve their ability to produce crops.

It is generally accepted by growers and researchers that nutrient losses can be more pronounced in no-till production systems due to increased soil microbial activity, soil temperature and other factors. Plant uptake of nutrients can be especially challenged due to increased post-application losses of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) fertilizers.

These losses can be offset and reduced, however, by making P applications in the fall and using fertilizer enhancers or stabilizers with both fall-applied P and spring-applied N.

“You have a greater buildup of carbon and organic matter, microbial activity speeds up and nutrient transformation is more enhanced in no-till systems,” says Dr. Ron Heiniger, professor of cropping systems at North Carolina State University. “Plus, water moving through a more permeable soil also contributes to nutrient losses.”

In the case of P, between 75% and 95% of the nutrient often gets tied up or “fixed” in the soil the year of application due to a chemical process that converts it from a soluble to an insoluble form and makes it unavailable for plant uptake. Nitrogen losses can also increase from leaching, volatilization and denitrification due to higher amounts of soil organic matter and mineral components found in no-till systems. “This increased microbial activity works in tandem with moisture and temperature to either lock in or lose those nutrients,” Heiniger says.

Phosphorus Fixation Delays Availability

“The fixation of phosphorus in the soil is a huge deal — you can’t know when phosphorus might revert back to a form that is available to the plant,” he continues. “Fortunately, there is technology available that reduces phosphorus fixation and helps ensure that the nutrient remains in the soluble form and can be readily used by crops.”

That technology exists, with an example being AVAIL Phosphorus Fertilizer Enhancer from SFP. This can be used to either be impregnated on granular fertilizer or injected into liquid fertilizer.

[Webinar: The Great Tie-Up: Phosphorus vs. Your Soil]

“AVAIL is a nutrient enhancer that targets phosphorus by providing a negative charge that protects phosphorus from getting tied up with positively-charged cations in the soil,” Heiniger says. “The end result is larger root systems, more vigorous emergence and plants that are healthier overall due to the improved uptake of phosphorus.”

Reducing Nitrogen Losses

No-till conditions also provide many mechanisms for loss of N due to increased residue cover and increased exposure to the climate, notes Dr. Barney Gordon, professor emeritus of agronomy at Kansas State University (KSU). “Plant roots grow more slowly and are hard pressed to cover the soil volume needed to take up ample moisture and nutrients,” Gordon explains. “Combine this scenario with higher nitrogen losses, and the crop is going to struggle.”

A helpful way to counter N losses in no-till is to use products such as NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager. “NutriSphere-N keeps more nitrogen in the ammonium form versus the nitrate form,” Gordon says. “Plants can take up nitrogen in the ammonium form and utilize it with less energy conversion, so more energy goes into plant development, growth and yield. Otherwise, the plant has to use energy to convert nitrate to ammonium so the nitrogen can be more directly utilized by the plant.”

Gordon notes that, in general, conditions favoring loss of applied N fertilizer include:

  • High soil temperatures.
  • Moist conditions, followed by rapid drying.
  • High amounts of surface residue.
  • Windy conditions.
  • High soil pH (greater than 7.5).
  • Coarse soil texture, such as sandy soils.
  • High lime content on the soil surface.
  • Amount of water moving through the soil profile from rainfall or irrigation.

Fall P Application Recommended

The KSU researcher also notes that P has a tendency to hang out with the wrong crowd. “In high acid soils, phosphorus gets tied up with iron and aluminum,” the agronomist says. “In high-pH or low acid soils, phosphorus tends to bind to calcium and magnesium. Soil tests may only tell you the amount of phosphorus in the soil — not what is actually available for plant uptake by the crop. In many cases, phosphorus needs help to increase its availability to the crop.”

Applying P in the fall and using an enhancer such as AVAIL is one of the best hedges against P tie up in the soil, as well as weather delays in the spring, according to Gordon. “Spring tends to be a wetter period of the year, and a farmer can nearly always count on missing a number of days in the field to wet weather,” he says. “If you wait until spring to apply phosphorus, you run the risk of not getting it applied in time to benefit your crop.”

There is also a larger window for P application in the fall, due to larger equipment and quicker harvests. The agronomist recommends the use of AVAIL to help ensure that adequate P will be available for plant uptake the following spring. “There is plenty of solid research data that demonstrates fall phosphorus applications are just as effective as spring applications,” Gordon says. “Corn really needs phosphorus to get a good start, and if applications are late you can experience some deficiencies.”

Gordon cites KSU research conducted from 2008 through 2010 which showed a 12-bushel per acre corn yield advantage when AVAIL was applied with monoammonium phosphate (MAP) fertilizer.

“Depending on commodity prices, it only takes two or three bushels of extra corn yield to pay for the AVAIL treatment,” the researcher says. “The rest of the yield increase is money in the farmer’s pocket.”

Narrowing Your Spring Focus

From a farm dealer and custom applicator perspective, fall is the right time to apply P. “You really get ahead of the game if you apply your phosphorus in the fall,” says Matt Bambauer of Bambauer Fertilizer and Seed in Pemberton, OH. “There’s just way too much for a farmer to manage in the spring without having to worry about fertilizer applications.”

Spreading that crop-production workload out over the fall and spring can be a life saver for the farmer, especially when the spring is wet and cool and throws all planting-related activity behind schedule. It can also be a life saver for professional applicators, whose ability to meet customer needs can be stretched thin by spring weather delays.

“In the spring, the farmer should be focused on nitrogen applications, planting and controlling weeds, insects and diseases,” Bambauer stresses. “Those items alone demand a farmer’s full attention, because getting the crop off to the best possible start is key to success for the entire growing season.”

There are also sound agronomic reasons for applying phosphorus in the fall, Bambauer says. “It takes time for phosphorus to break down after application and move through the soil profile, especially in a no-till production system,” he explains. “You also need time for phosphorus to be adequately incorporated either by rainfall in a no-till system or by tillage in a conventional system, and fall weather is usually optimal for both.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-Education Center Investment (w/Photo Gallery)
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Converts Nitrogen To Bushels
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Aspire with Boron
Crop InputsStudy: Aspire with Boron Ups Alfalfa Yields
June 8, 2016
Alfalfa growers are successfully improving yields through the cutting season by applying an important micronutrient. In a recent study, The Read More
Trending Articles
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Soybean Plant closeup
Industry NewsMonsanto Rejects Bayer Bid; Open To More Talks
May 25, 2016
Monsanto Co, the world’s largest seed company, turned down Bayer AG’s $62 billion acquisition bid as “incomplete and financially inadequate” Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Latest News
Allen Summers Asmark Institute PSM Training
EmployeesAsmark Institute Sponsors 25 ResponsibleAg Auditor Trai…
June 21, 2016
The Asmark Institute has announced plans to provide 25 scholarships through their affiliated State fertilizer and agrichemical associations to help encourage Read More
Kennebec Elevator
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Celebrates Kennebec Elevator Grand Openin…
June 21, 2016
Over 250 patrons and guests were on hand to celebrate Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Elevator grand opening. South Dakota Secretary of Read More
Land O Lakes
Industry NewsLand O’Lakes To Acquire Ceres
June 20, 2016
Land O’ Lakes, Inc. and Ceres, Inc. have announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Land O’Lakes Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To …
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
LegislationVilsack Christens WinField Crop Adventure, Talks Monsan…
June 17, 2016
The WinField Crop Adventure grand opening ceremonies at Fair Oaks Farms (near Winemac, IN) welcomed USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Read More
Crop InputsFields of the Future: WinField Doubles Down with Agri-E…
June 16, 2016
Land O’Lakes, Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, today will host Fields of the Future, a live broadcast about Read More
Bayer sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Turns Back Bayer Again
June 14, 2016
Bayer AG’s bid to buy Monsanto Co. for more than $60 billion has hit an impasse that could pose a Read More
Young Corn Field
Crop NutritionNext Generation Of Nitrogen Efficiency Technology Conve…
June 13, 2016
Commodity price projections indicate farmers will continue to face tight margins again this year. Delivering higher yields and more bushels Read More
Industry NewsLa Crosse Seed Acquires Cover Crop Solutions Brand
June 10, 2016
La Crosse Seed announces that it is the new and exclusive owner of the entire family of brands of Cover Read More
ManagementTravel Plans and EU Rejection of Glyphosate, Biotech Cr…
June 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trips and the latest in the European Union’s moves against glyphosate Read More
Aspire with Boron
Crop InputsStudy: Aspire with Boron Ups Alfalfa Yields
June 8, 2016
Alfalfa growers are successfully improving yields through the cutting season by applying an important micronutrient. In a recent study, The Read More
Industry NewsAGCO Announces Tragic Death of Longtime Employee
June 8, 2016
It is with deepest regret that we announce the passing of our dear friend, colleague and customer advocate-in-chief Kevin W. Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Industry NewsBASF Inks Northern Seed for Clearfield Wheat R&D Li…
June 6, 2016
BASF has licensed Northern Seed LLC to perform research and development of BASF’s proprietary and patented Clearfield technology in wheat. Read More
ManagementBayer/Monsanto, EU/Glyphosate, Corn/Soybeans
June 2, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the latest regarding industry mergers, the glyphosate debate in Europe, and an update Read More
Growers looking at soybeans
Industry NewsKoch Licenses 2 Marrone Products For North American Dis…
June 2, 2016
Koch Agronomic Services (Koch), with support from its affiliate, Koch Biological Solutions, has secured exclusive rights to sell REGALIA Rx Read More
Gypsum
Industry NewsBeneficial Reuse Management Launches GYPSOIL BLENDABLE
June 2, 2016
Beneficial Reuse Management (BRM) has introduced GYPSOIL BLENDABLE, a new high-quality pelleted gypsum fertilizer that supplies 17% sulfate sulfur and Read More
StewardshipAgrible Joins Field To Market To Pursue Sustainable Sou…
June 1, 2016
Agrible, Inc. has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture as an associate member. As a leading multi-stakeholder Read More