Exploring flexible fertilizer options ahead of the busy spring season

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Spring is coming, and it always seems to creep up a little quicker than anticipated.

After the year that was 2019, many producers are wondering how they are going to best deal with their soils moving into the season. Many across the Prairies that traditionally put down fall fertilizer or do tillage operations in the fall were not able to get to it; they were still working on getting their crop off in the middle of a snow-covered field.

Marla Riekman, soil management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, says that currently there are a lot of producers and agronomists struggling with the question: “How are we going to actually get through this scenario?”

“I think the key thing right now is figuring out how we’re going to get fertilizer down,” Riekman explains. “Because if you’re set up for spring operations already for fertilizer, you might be thinking you’re OK. You’ve got single-pass seeding with fertilizer. In that case, you might have some ruts you have to deal with, and have some light shallow tilling — on an angle, across those ruts —  to do.”

While this is a scenario that can pose difficulties, Riekman acknowledges the biggest struggles will be for the farmers who don’t have the ability to put down their fertilizer at the same time as spring seeding passes.

“If you can get out, and you have to fill in some ruts, maybe you are going to be broadcasting some nitrogen at that time, maybe using a protected product. If you’re not going to get some rainfall to move some of that nitrogen in, talk to your agronomist about what sort of options you’ve got for enhanced efficiency fertilizers for that scenario.”

If you are one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have any ruts to deal with, the top dressing can be a good option for spring fertilizer as well.

“There can be a lot of benefits to top dressing. So you might get a little fertilizer down to get that crop started — maybe half the nitrogen, or something like that,” Riekman says. “But there can be benefits of looking at a top dressing scenario because then you can hopefully, pending the type of growing year, assess your crop, assess what things look like, assess the year in itself, and then make a decision on what the achievable yield is. You actually have some flexibility of not putting everything down right at the beginning, and maybe see how things go, and make a decision on how much fertilizer you want to invest in that crop.”

Check out the full conversation between RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis and Marla Riekman, filmed at FarmTech 2020, below:

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