Vital crop nutrients act differently in the root zone. Some, such as nitrogen, move easily with soil water, but others, such as phosphorus, hardly move at all, requiring that plants grow to seek out the nutrients. With the rise of no-till, crop residue builds up on the soil surface — a good thing for many reasons — but it can mean that immobile nutrients, phosphorus in particular, get stuck where the plants can’t reach them.

Ken Coles, general manager of Farming Smarter at Lethbridge, AB, says that nutrient stratification is a real concern, and that while we have many solutions for nitrogen management, it could be that phosphorus has become the most limiting nutrient in zero-till systems.

To address this, Farming Smarter is running a trial that has land deep-banded with the crop’s phosphorus needs once every three years.

Using a shank opener, the fertilizer is put in about five to six inches down, into moist soil, available to the plant root system, Coles says. The trial will be run on wheat, canola, and peas, and will also look at the impact of potassium and copper, too, though he says the soil tends to be sufficient for both in this area.

Coles says the current trial put the phosphorus in in the spring, but fall would be ideal. Using GPS guidance, the seed row will be placed directly over the deep band. Listen below for more:

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