If nitrogen is the instant gratification nutrient, phosphorus (P) is the golden nest egg of retirement. Unlike a pension, it won’t take 35 years to see a benefit to using P fertilizer, but it does require constant investment to keep the soil bank account full.

The beauty of P fertilizer is that it won’t be lost. What you add in the soil now may not be used in 2013, but it’ll be used in 2014, ’15, ’16 and more. Having adequate and then some levels of P (within reason, of course) in the soil means that when favourable growing conditions arise, the crop will have all the phosphorus it needs to reach max yield. Skimp on the phosphorus at seeding because the crop seems to need so little or you’ve added an efficiency enhancer and you could be hamstringing yield in both the short and medium term.

In this video, Tom Jensen, Northern Great Plains regional director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute based at Saskatoon, discusses why it’s absolutely necessary to think long-term with phosphorus management, and, perhaps most importantly, why phosphorus-uptake-enhancing products don’t mean you should cut back P rates. “Rate is more important than efficiency,” he says. “You may gain a little in the short term, but in the long term, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.” (Watch to the 4 minute mark for more Jensen’s thoughts on P availability enhancers).

If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.

3 thoughts on “A Phosphorus Strategy for Max Yields & Why P-Enhancing Products Aren’t a Cure-All

  1. This is great on your own land but its tough on rental when you are only using it for a year. I guess you just have to think that even though only 15-25% of what you apply is being used for your crop you are using what has been applied in the past 5-10 years. The problem is when its very low in soil phosphorus and you need to apply a lot to be sure the crop isn’t shorted and that can get pricey.

  2. It’s an excellent point — and one that I think should be discussed with landlords prior to an agreement, or even as part of the agreement. There’s a clip of the video we didn’t use where he discusses this point. Soil management โ€” the levels of nutrients before and after renting โ€” should be a big part of any agreement, I think. That would benefit both renter and landlord, especially in the long term, and treat the soil with the respect it deserves.

  3. Research is underway in Ontario, through Univ of Guelph and Ontario Min of Ag and Food, that addresses P (and K) management in the short (efficiency focus) and long term (buildup levels and maintain). I would agree that P management needs to be long-term, but in the short-term, methods to increase P efficiency trumps long-term investment. The research will challenge this hypothesis. Even many growers paying high dollars for land — purchased, perhaps, with long-term intentions — must get through financial challenges in the “short-term” because $$ are competing with other investments (high mortgage or lease payments, etc.).

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