Condition Critical For Soil Fertility

As fertility planning time approaches, there’s a growing concern about the sustainability of fertility practices over the last decade. Dr. Paul Fixen of the International Plant Nutrition Institute presented evidence of this concern at the InfoAg Conference in July, and discussed a soon to be completed report that will provide deeper insight into the issue. A recent information release from The Mosiac Co., which follows below, does a good job of outlining the issues.

In many areas of the Corn Belt, nutrient budgets have become very negative due to changes in the way growers have fertilized their crops in recent years. That’s according to a new study recently completed by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). The study details the nutrient balance of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) added through commercial fertilizer and manure in 2007 and removed in harvested grain for the average of 2006-2008 on a county-by-county basis.

“Potassium and phosphorus application took big hits last year, and that means there are some very negative nutrient budgets . . . quantity applied minus quantity removed by crops . . . for key crop areas,” says Paul Fixen, senior vice president for Americas Group and director of research at IPNI. “Prior to the 2009 season, much of the Corn Belt was running a P deficit with crop removal in Iowa exceeding use by 20 to 30 percent and in Illinois by 50 to 60 percent. Realize these were the budgets prior to the recent reduction in use.”

The IPNI is a not-for-profit, science-based organization with a focus on agronomic education and research support. The IPNI database compares average soil nutrient application levels (from both commercial fertilizer and manure) to crop removal levels based on crop yield for N, P and K. In many areas nutrient removals exceed application levels. A summary of the study is available at the InfoAg Conference Web Site, and the full report should be available at later this fall. The Mosaic Company is creating area-specific maps of the information.

Fertility Impacts From Market Fluctations

Traditionally, when fertilizer was an inexpensive input, growers fertilized at or above recommended rates, building the nutrient profile of their soils. In recent years, fluctuating crop prices and high fertilizer prices, coupled with weather that prevented application, resulted in growers cutting back on their fertilizer rates.

With excellent yields the past three to five years, plus lower application rates in 2009, soil nutrient levels may actually be lower than past trends and the IPNI information show.

“Even though crop yields have increased significantly in recent years, many growers have not increased their fertilizer rates. With the higher yields, crops are pulling nutrients from the soil’s nutrient bank and mining the soils,” explains Dan Froehlich, director of agronomy for The Mosaic Company.

“In 2009 some growers applied 35 to 40 percent less potassium and cut phosphorus by 15 to 20 percent. The report shows many areas were at or below the critical level for these key nutrients even before the fertilizer cut backs of 2009,” Froehlich continues.

Maintaining fertility levels is critical for maintaining yields. For example, a field testing 10 ppm for P that does not receive phosphorus fertilizer would be expected to produce corn yields 20 percent lower than a field with soil P levels at the critical 20 ppm level.

“To maintain crop yields and farm profitability, progressive growers and retailers will definitely want to soil test immediately after harvest to get a true picture of the soil nutrient levels within each field,” he adds.

Now is a good time for growers to talk with their retailer to get on the schedule for post-harvest soil testing. A soil test is an important investment in the production decision process because it allows comparison of the soil nutrients available to what the crop needs to reach the desired yield goal and yield potential. And it’s important to use this information to properly balance all needed nutrients, not just for applying nitrogen.

“Growers often attempt to rely on nitrogen only. They forget potassium interacts with essential plant food nutrients and ‘regulates’ many essential plant processes,” says Froehlich. “Without K, plants can’t optimize uptake of available N. So, the money growers spend on N may be wasted.”

For example, research at Ohio State demonstrated that corn yields were reduced by 44 bushels/acre when high levels of N were used on fields with inadequate K levels. At $3.25 corn, the foregone bushels would cost the grower $143 per acre.

Likewise, adequate P is necessary for higher yields and improved grain quality because P also improves the plants’ ability to use all available nutrients. Without adding P fertilizers to balance nutrition, plant uptake of N is reduced. Again, nitrate levels in the soil increase, and some of the grower’s investment in N is lost.

“We encourage growers to visit with their local fertilizer retailer soon to get a handle on the nutrient balance situation in their area and to begin planning for the nutrient needs of the 2010 crop,” Froehlich concludes. “With a clear picture of the situation on their own farm, they can develop a fertility plan for 2010 that will meet the crop nutrient needs and optimize their production and profitability.”

For more information about proper crop nutrition, soil testing and the importance of balanced soil fertility, visit

Leave a Reply

Grower Services & Solutions Stories
Farmer with iPad
Decision Support SoftwareClimate Adds New Features, Restructures FieldView Pricing
August 30, 2017
The Climate Corp. announced at Farm Progress Show the addition of new features and data connectivity enhancements for the 2018 Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsFarmobile Launches Farmobile Pro Tier with Universal File Transfer
August 28, 2017
Farmobile today announced the launch of a new subscription service, Farmobile Pro. Farmobile Pro includes significant technology advancements including the Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsSyngenta, Premier Crop Systems Partner to Offer ROI Analysis Maps
August 28, 2017
Syngenta and Premier Crop Systems announce a commercial partnership to bring growers customized, variable-cost-per-bushel analysis maps — the first of Read More
Data ManagementBASF, Proagrica to Jointly Develop Farm Management System Interface
August 24, 2017
BASF and Proagrica have signed a development and operation agreement to bring one of the first farm management system interfaces Read More
Trending Articles
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imagery Deal
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Industry NewsEFC Systems’ FieldAlytics Now Available in Canada
September 29, 2017
According to an AgPR news release, FieldAlytics is now available in Canada through FieldAlytics Solutions Canada, Inc. This new company Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSciFi in Ag: Chatbot with your Plants?
September 26, 2017
(Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversDeepfield Robotics to Showcase Precision Agriculture Technology at Agrilevante
September 22, 2017
Deepfield Robotics is preparing to showcase its robotics and automation technologies for the agriculture market at the Agrilevante event, in Read More
Farmer with iPad
Australia/New ZealandAgrian Expands into Australia
September 20, 2017
In line with a familiar growth trajectory, Agrian Inc. is moving into Australia with a physical support and sales presence Read More
Tools & Smart EquipmentHow John Deere’s New AI Lab Is Designing Farm Equipment for a More Sustainable Future
September 15, 2017
On a block in San Francisco’s SoMa district, near LinkedIn’s headquarters and dozens of startups, a 180-year-old company best-known for Read More
Latest News
AsiaIndia Maps 185 Districts Through Remote Sensing for Hor…
October 17, 2017
India’s Union Ministry of Agriculture has mapped 185 districts under a project using remote sensing technology to identify areas best Read More
AmericasIPNI Brazil: Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient …
October 16, 2017
As I mentioned in my last article, the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Read More
Data ManagementUsing Vector Soil Data in a Raster World?
October 16, 2017
Why spend the time and resources to extract the NRCS ‘Soil SURvey GeOgraphic’ (SSURGO) soil polygons only to display the Read More
Precision Irrigation
Precision Irrigation4 Important Ways Precision Technology Is Impacting Irri…
October 12, 2017
Water management is becoming an increasing concern in agriculture, whether that’s dealing with too much or too little water. This Read More
DronesDroneLife: Global Ag Drone Industry Potentially Worth $…
October 12, 2017
Via’s Jason Reagan: According to an August study by Esticast Research & Consulting Market Research, the global commercial drone Read More
Decision Support SoftwareFarmers Edge, Service Provider Talk High-Frequency Imag…
October 11, 2017
As the domestic ag tech market continues to mature and develop as we barrel into 2018, another intriguing partnership has Read More
Planet Labs satellite imagery
Industry NewsFarmers Edge, Planet Labs Announce Multi-Year Exclusive…
October 11, 2017
Farmers Edge announced today a strategic partnership to bring Planet’s best-in-class global monitoring platform to the Farmers Edge precision agriculture Read More
John Deere Combine Harvester at Hagen Farms
Decision Support SoftwareAg and Rail Equipment Uptime Critical for Good Harvest
October 9, 2017
Across the American Heartland, growers have started harvesting their crops for what the USDA predicts will be a good yield Read More
Ag Drone
Industry NewsBotlink, SST Announce Integration
October 6, 2017
Botlink has announced a seamless flow of actionable aerial data into the agX Platform. This integration makes it quick and Read More
corn field
Industry NewsEFC Purchases AgSolver Assets, Establishes New Sustaina…
October 6, 2017
EFC Systems announced it has purchased the assets of AgSolver Inc. The move establishes a new Agronomic Planning and Sustainabilty Read More
Ag Retailer and Grower WinField United
Australia/New ZealandNew Technologies vs. Agronomic Knowledge in Precision A…
October 4, 2017
As the days are getting longer and the temperature is starting to rise, Australian broadacre growers are gearing up for Read More
Field Sky Beauty shot
Industry NewsClimate, West Central Distribution Join Forces on Phosp…
October 3, 2017
To help farmers improve productivity and return on their investment, West Central Distribution and The Climate Corporation have teamed up Read More
DronesYuma Growers Embrace Precision Production
October 3, 2017
From the Rose Garden at the White House, to the laser-leveled fields of Yuma, AZ (home to 90% of this Read More
EuropeUK: Robotic Farm Completes First Fully Autonomous Harve…
October 3, 2017
It’s harvest season in many parts of the world, but on one farm in the United Kingdom, robots — not Read More
APSUL overview
AmericasFuture of Digital Agriculture Arrives at South American…
October 2, 2017
Last week I attended the fourth South American Congress of Precision Agriculture and Precision Machinery (IV APSUL America 2017). The Read More
PrecisionAg InstituteThe PrecisionAg Institute Partners
October 1, 2017
Learn more about the companies that have committed their corporate and financial support to the PrecisionAg Institute, an independent global forum dedicated to the sharing of precision agriculture practices, ideas, research, products, services and success stories. Read More
Corn Field Sunset
Industry NewsEFC Systems’ FieldAlytics Now Available in Canada
September 29, 2017
According to an AgPR news release, FieldAlytics is now available in Canada through FieldAlytics Solutions Canada, Inc. This new company Read More
Industry NewsAgDNA Launches Profit Spatial Analysis Tool
September 29, 2017
This week AgDNA has launched a product it says has the ability to analyze profit spatially throughout a field. The Read More