Maximize soil nutrients with these five tips

Strategy, planning and the basics may help you stretch your fertilizer budget and better understand existing nutrients in your soil. Follow these five tips for making the most of all your nutrients this year!

Soil test

With the rising costs of fertilizer, soil fertility and soil testing are getting a lot of attention. Soil testing and soil nitrogen testing help drive value to your clients’ bottom line, allowing them to maximize fertilizer applications for the best outcomes while managing their expenses. Without this basic information, every other fertility decision is only a guess.

Include a soil nitrogen test this fall

Where there was low rainfall this growing season, there is likely residual nitrogen in the soil profile. Including a soil nitrate test this fall will reveal how much nitrogen can be partially credited toward next year’s crop.

Use your soil results to determine where P and K is needed and where it isn’t

There is less than a 5% chance that fertilizer will increase yield when the soil test level is high or very high.

For example: Blanket applying 30 lbs./acre of phosphorous or potassium when your soil test levels are adequate or higher can add over $6/acre to fertilizer costs without providing any immediate benefit to the crop.

Determine if fields have adequate nutrient levels

If the soil test level of a nutrient is at or above the adequate level you could grow a crop next year without applying any fertilizer, allowing the soil reserve to supply crop needs. (Note: an exception is to still use some start P for cold and wet spring planting)

  • Continue liming for pH
  • You will need to replenish nutrients eventually. As soil test levels fall below critical levels, profits and yield will suffer

Consider alternative means of supplying N, P, and K

Manure is valuable as a fertilizer and is a great source of N, P, and K. This is the year to figure out the most strategic fields to spread manure on to offset purchased fertilizer, even if it’s bought from a neighbor. Remember to follow manure application regulations.

  • Prioritize applying manure or fertilizer on all your low testing fields that need all three nutrients (N, P, and K)
  • The next most profitable places for manure and fertilizer are fields that need just N and P, followed by N and K, or P and K

For more information, or to get started testing with VAS Laboratories, reach out to one of our experts!

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