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
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
FertilizerVerdesian Announces Central America Plant Nutrition Exp…
July 7, 2015
Verdesian Life Sciences has signed a commercial agreement with Agroalfa in Central America to bring the company’s patented polymer technology to Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementCourt Decision Protects Chesapeake Bay’s Water, Wildlif…
July 7, 2015
Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the historic clean-up plan for the Chesapeake Bay. Collin O’Mara, president and Read More
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Western-Australia-based Agworld — having fully launched its data management software system stateside last year after a 2013 soft launch — Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More