12/17/18: Managing Fertilizer for Profit

In a recent poll published by Successful Farming magazine farmers were asked how they plan to reduce production costs.  Thirty percent said they would cut back on fertilizer purchases.  However, nearly an equal amount, 27%, said they would use the same amount of fertilizer and manage for better yields.  This brings up the question of which fertilizer practices to continue and what needs to be done differently to increase yields and profits.

Smith Fertilizer and Grain has been receiving an average of 6 bushel yield increase when using a quality row starter.  We have learned it’s important to use a quality row starter like “Riser 7” especially under the following conditions:

  • Early planting with cooler soil temperatures.
  • No-till or any minimum-till system where substantial amounts of crop residue are left on the surface creating a lower soil temperature.
  • Low phosphorous soil tests.
  • Late planting.  Starter helps push crops to mature before frost.
  • Wet soils.
  • For more uniform maturity and lower grain moisture levels at harvest.

We can’t emphasize enough to soil test.  To reduce costs and increase profit, it is perhaps more important to know which nutrients aren’t needed.  Don’t waste money broadcasting phosphorus on fields that test high, for example.

It’s important to understand “sufficiency” guidelines that universities use to make phosphorus recommendations.  These are based on soil tests and take into account the amount of nutrients the soil will supply.  If the soil can supply the nutrients, or most of them, that is fertilizer that doesn’t have to be purchased.

Avoid using the “nutrient replacement” method of computing the amount of phosphorus and potassium to apply.  This method ignores soil test results.

Nitrogen applications should be split and applied as close as possible to the time of maximum crop need.  Rates an be reduced compared to fall nitrogen applications where it won’t be used for many months.

Be sure to discuss your fertilizer needs with your Smith Fertilizer and Grain agronomist so you can manage fertilizer application for profit.

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