7 Keys To Delivering Effective Fertility Programs: #1 Soil Testing

Agriculture today is being challenged. The task ahead for every person and entity in the crop  production chain is clear: figuring out how to feed a growing global population using essentially the same number of acres while making best use of our limited resources.

This challenge has triggered a top-to-bottom review of best practices to determine what the industry is doing right, and what we can do better. One key focus is on the condition of our soils, and whether our fields are nutrient-optimized to reduce risk and maximize yield.

Not unlike the annual check-up we go through at the doctor’s office, a regular soil testing regimen sets the baseline to understand a field’s soil health and vitality. Adds long-time agronomist and researcher Dr. Harold Reetz, “soil testing is the only way we have of determining whether or not we have enough nutrients in the soil to grow healthy crops.”

Dr. Paul Fixen, senior vice president and director of research at the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), says that the idea of nutrient balance — comparing the amount applied to the amount removed by crop harvest — has been a key topic at meetings he has attended recently.

Through aggregating national soil test data, IPNI has determined that despite the benefits of optimizing yield, soil nutrient levels are often not where they need to be.

“The balances for phosphorus and potassium in much of the U.S. Corn Belt have become decidedly negative, and our soil test summaries have demonstrated that these negative budgets are frequently drawing down soil fertility to less than optimal levels,” says Fixen. Retail agronomists play two critical roles. First, they must ensure that accurate and regular soil tests are a part of the fertility program. Second, they must reinforce with growers the importance of following scientific recommendations to more fully realize the yield potential of the crop and maintain the long-term value of the land.


usa2.largeusa1.largeThe maps reveal the percentage of soil samples that are below critical levels for major crops in phosphorus (at left or top) and potassium. 2010 data courtesy of IPNI. Click to enlarge.


What To Consider When Selecting Your Starter Fertilizer

The use of starter fertilizer materials is an important decision for your farming operation. Make certain your crop is getting the adequate nutrition early in the growing season to make high yields achievable.

  1. Soils with low-soil-test phosphorus and potassium are prime soils for applying a complete macronutrient starter package.
  2. Tillage is a major factor on selection when using soil-test information to make starter-source decisions.
  3. Starter formulations with sulfur and micronutrients are also an option. However, soil type is a major factor when considering this formulation.
  4. High pH testing soils can respond well to starter fertilizers that contain zinc, manganese or other micronutrients.
  5. Soils that produced nutrient-deficient crops in the past can benefit from starter fertilizer containing the deficient nutrient.
  6. For farmers that rely primarily on sidedress nitrogen for the bulk of the nitrogen budget, starter materials with a good amount of nitrogen can go a long way toward ensuring adequate nitrogen nutrition until sidedress time.

Sponsored by PotashCorp

About The Series

The fertility program is at the heart of a comprehensive cropping plan, and a central part of the relationship between ag retailers and growers. The CropLife 100 Retailers survey data as compiled in 2012 reported that in aggregate, 55 percent of crop input and service revenue was generated from the sale of fertilizer.

Not surprisingly, fertilizer program management attracts the lion’s share of attention. Effective management of fertilizer on behalf of growers requires a complete understanding of field and crop needs, proper prescription development and accurate application, and scouting and monitoring. Then at season’s end, a full evaluation to compare past planting seasons is required as planning commences for the season ahead.

To highlight the important aspects of fertility management programs, CropLife magazine and PotashCorp are pleased to present the Seven Keys to Delivering Effective Fertility Programs.

Leave a Reply

7 Keys To Delivering Effective Fertility Programs Stories

Trending Articles

InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More

Latest News

StewardshipTFI Recognizes Michigan, Maryland Farms For 4R Stewards…
October 31, 2014
As farming practices increasingly attract interest from the general public, two farmers are ensuring they meet public approval. Read More
Eric SfiligojBig Brother Is Already Watching
October 31, 2014
Opponents to UAVs seem to think they could be used to spy on other people. But spying is already taking place, through the Internet. Read More
StewardshipAsmark Institute’s New Training Center Focused On…
October 31, 2014
The newly dedicated Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture will be used as a national training and education center for professionals in the ag input industry. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Tour Dives Deep Into Everglades
October 31, 2014
The most recent Conservation In Action Tour (CTIC) hit South Florida recently to tour the Everglades Agricultural Area. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
CropLife 100ValueAct Buys Stake In Fertilizer Dealer Agrium
October 30, 2014
ValueAct has bought 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, making them the second largest investor in the fertilizer dealer. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
StewardshipUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to Read More
Crop InputsValent Launches New Low VOC ProGibb LV Plus Plant Growt…
October 29, 2014
ProGibb LV Plus PGR is a high-potency, liquid gibberellic acid formulation designed to comply with California’s new air quality standards for high volatile organic compound agricultural products. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience Acquires Certain DuPont Crop Protecti…
October 29, 2014
Bayer CropScience and DuPont Crop Protection have signed an agreement for Bayer to purchase certain DuPont Crop Protection Land Management assets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read More
ManagementWest Central Names New President
October 29, 2014
West Central’s board of directors have announced their unanimous decision to name Milan Kucerak President and CEO-elect following Jeff Stroburg’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More
InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More