Finding balance between budget and yield potential when planning fertilizer rates

For farmers worried about 2020, and perhaps already tight budget constraints, cutting input costs may seem like a quick fix, but how is it impacting your bottom line?

Resident agronomist Peter Johnson says finding that balance and making those tough decisions comes down to management.

“The beauty of soil fertility is that your soil is like a bank account of nutrients — phosphorous, potash, calcium, even some nitrogen,” says Johnson. “Yes, you can sort of live off the bank account when you need to, but…you’ve gotta be so careful — management, management, management.”

Johnson says if fields have fertility levels built up to moderate levels, it’s possible to reduce (not eliminate) fertilizer input quit significantly. But, in low-testing soils, this can cost growers yield.

“In the case of corn, if you’re low potash, and you don’t put potash on, you’re 30-50 bushels per acre off of what you potentially could have gotten.”

In developing a fertility plan, says Johnson, look at your base fertility and manage decisions on cutting back based on that.

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