Fertilizer can be the most expensive part of the expenses on a farm. We have producers that will be spending up to $100 per acre on fertilizer trying to grow a crop. These dollars need to be spent if a producer is trying to attain high yields. If that kind of dollar is going to be spent on a crop, it needs to be spent the right way. There are many types of fertilizer that can be bought and many ways to apply it. The system that will make sense for your farm will depend on a number of factors. A grain grower must understand these factors. The first thing that must be looked at is the seeding tool that is being used. Different seeding drills have different capabilities. It is important to understand where the seed and the fertilizer are being placed. Having adequate separation from the seed is a critical aspect to getting the crop to grow. Too much fertilizer with the seed will kill germination. Too much nitrogen in the band away from the seed will cause poor uptake of other nutrients. An understanding of how the seed drill interacts with fertilizer is critical. This is an important area to talk to your agronomist about. The soil levels of the various nutrients is the next place to look. Having the right nutrient in place is essential. If your soils are low in copper, it should be applied. The amount of nitrogen and sulfur should match the yield expectation that you have. Levels of potash and phosphorous have been dropping in our area and need to be looked at if yields are to be maintained. The characteristics of the soils must be understood to ensure that the nutrients that are applied are doing what they should be doing. Knowing what the right amount of nitrogen that is required by your crop will allow top yields to be attained. The right form of nitrogen is critical. This means that a producer must understand the impacts of leaching and denitrificaton. Using products that can improve efficiency of these products is critical if high yields are to be attained. A balanced approach to the application of nutrients is essential to reaching the yields that we expect. The complexity of the fertility requirements of our crops is changing. The cost and the amount of the fertilizers that we use is going up. This means that there should be a plan when determining what is to be used on the farm. To start the plan, all the relevant information about the soils on the farm should be gathered. This information should be used to develop the background for the plan. Having a professional that is familiar with the area and better yet, familiar with your farm, will help to improve the information in the plan. Fertilizer is one of the biggest expenses on most of the farms in the area. Having a well thought out plan as to what fertilizers should be used only makes sense. This is all part of growing more bushels.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag