Making the most out of your “windshield-time”

Observe Crops during Harvest to Make Fertilizer Plans for Next Year

When swathing or harvesting, make the “windshield-time” in your combine as profitable as possible. It is an excellent time to make overall field observations from the cab and it’s a good time to think about plans for next year’s crop. For many growers, judging the performance of different crops may be the only observations made. But there are many other aspects of crop production to think about during the long hours in the cab—fertility is one.

Crop fertility has been on the minds of many growers who may have reduced seed placed fertilizer applications in the last few years due to availability or pricing concerns. Many growers took significant yields off the fields but put fewer nutrients back. This negative balance of nutrient replacement versus crop removal could lead to lower yields and quality in the future.

Because of cold and wet soil conditions in many parts of the area, we saw positive responses from seed placed fertilizers. Faster early growth, more uniform flowering and earlier maturity are encouraged by these applications.

Phosphorus (P) is a non-mobile nutrient and needs to be placed where the roots can find it fast. The first 10 to 15 pounds of applied phosphate should be banded in the seed furrow (or very close) for the best production.  Adequate P is needed for top yields and improved grain quality.

Potassium (K) is required in a seed placed fertilizer for best growth when growing conditions are less than optimum. K deficiencies can show up even in high testing soils where there are restrictions to root growth such as cold soils or compaction. It is important for good stalk quality and in the translocation of nutrients within the plant.

Nitrogen (N) is important because it’s the “driver” for nutrient absorption, protein formation and plant growth.

Think of the combine cab as a moving observation point from which to view the crop. Keen observations on which to base decisions will lead to a more profitable crop next year.