The nature of ag production is in a constant state of flux, owing to greater productivity in the field and steady global pressure for food and fiber. Growers’ successful navigation through this complex world routinely hinges on the expertise of their ag retailer.
The crop fertility practices retailers recommend, based on soil sample results, can either drive production forward or put a damper on yields. Fertilizer is a sizeable investment. Correct analysis and interpretation of soil sample results on the retail level ensures that every dollar invested in crop nutrients counts.
According to Gary Tuxhorn, technical agronomist for United Suppliers, retailers have the advantage of seeing the bigger picture because of the immense amount of local and national data at their disposal. One of the biggest challenges with analysis and interpretation is the variation of soil fertility by region and from state to state. Local fertilizer trials can be an invaluable resource for retailers and growers when narrowing down fertility recommendations to fit local conditions.
“A good soil analysis starts with a properly taken soil sample,” says Craig Struve of Midwest Independent Soil Samplers LLC in Calumet, Iowa. “Agronomic service providers must be able to explain to their clients what a quality soil sample is, as well as how and why there can be variability of numeric soil test values between soil sample periods. The grower needs to understand, for example, that the soil value for K could be 190ppm one year and four years later be 150ppm and still be considered optimum.”
Will the 2012 drought be an obstacle for correct analysis of soil sample results in 2013? Not if agronomists make allowances for special considerations such as crop removal and depleted nutrient supplies. According to Tuxhorn, phosphorus, potassium and zinc levels averaged 15% lower for the fall of 2012 than they would have in a normal year. Growers and retailers have to factor this knowledge in for correct interpretation.
“The complexity of agriculture has the producer looking for solutions and problem solvers,” says Struve. “The opportunity for agronomy service providers has never been better or more important.”
Grower Input is Critical for Correct Analysis
While soil sample results are imperative to fertilizer recommendations, grower input is also key to making the best selection. Here are a few questions that ag retailers can ask to help make a more informed decision with growers.
- What are your goals for this field?
- Do I have your yield files yet? What specific crop history should I be aware of?
- Will your crop rotation stay the same?
- Will you or have you applied any animal derived nutrients?
- What are you using for tillage equipment? Are there any changes coming?
- Are there specific problems we should discuss?
- If you rent your land, is the landowner aware you are sampling their land? Are they aware of the crop inputs you are using?
- Are you removing crop residue?
To learn more about making better farm management decisions, visit www.potashcorp-ekonomics.com
About The Series
The fertility program is at the heart of a comprehensive cropping plan, and at the center of influence in the relationship between ag retailers and grower-customers. The CropLife 100 Retailers survey data as compiled in 2012 reported that in aggregate, 55% of crop input an service revenue was generated from the sale of fertilizer.
Not surprisingly, the selling and application of fertilizer attracts the lion’s share of attention from retail management. Effective management of fertilizer on behalf of growers requires a full understanding of field and crop needs, as well as the many factors that drive top-level production. Retailers must also be cognizant of proper stewardship, working to ensure that every pound of nutrient applied is maximized, with as little waste as possible.
To highlight the important aspects of fertilizer management programs, CropLife magazine and sponsor PotashCorp are pleased to present the Seven Keys to Delivering Effective Fertility Programs.