From Agronomists of the
Potash & Phosphate Institute
655 Engineering Drive, Suite 110
Norcross, Georgia 30092-2837
Phone (770) 447-0335

Fall 2001, No. 4


Today, we hear a lot about consolidation in the agricultural industry. Companies merge, small companies are taken over by larger ones…the list goes on. Why is all of this happening? One reason…profit. Companies realize that it takes a team to be profitable, use resources efficiently, and minimize waste. But did you know that the same principles apply to your fertility program? As farmers refine their operations to become more profitable, they should consider phosphorus and potassium to be good business partners.

Phosphorus and potassium can increase nitrogen efficiency. As a grower increases yields with nitrogen, the higher yields take more nutrients from the soil. If neglected too long, phosphorus and potassium can run short. When they are applied where they are needed, the crop can continue adding to its yield at the same level of nitrogen. Increased yield means increased revenue and greater potential for profits.

Phosphorus and potassium interact with other management practices. Great, you say, but what is an interaction? A plant can do more than add or subtract. It can also multiply. Improve one part of its environment, and a plant will add to its yield. Improve two or more parts at the same time, and the yield may increase more than the individual effects added together. When a crop responds to improved management through multiplication rather than addition, an interaction has occurred. Higher yields resulting from interactions lower production costs per crop unit, creating greater operating efficiencies for the farm.

Interactions occur at all yield levels. Finding the right balance of phosphorus and potassium with other crop inputs and management practices is always important for reaching economically optimum yields. However, as yield levels continue to climb, crops become more sensitive to proper balance. Higher yields demand that more things be working together in just the right way. Many factors beyond the farmer’s control can upset the balance, such as moisture, temperature, and storm damage, to name a few. Phosphorus and potassium are among the inputs that the farmer can control. Their proper use can at least ensure that part of the needed balance is in place for a crop year, making them wise investments.

There is more to profitable crop production than yield alone. Quality is also important…not just end quality, but crop health. Lower dockage, reduced lodging, improved winter hardiness, better grain fill, and lower harvest losses are among the many benefits of phosphorus and/or potassium that go beyond just yield and can add to profits.

Keep an eye on your partners. Making phosphorus and potassium your business partners requires paying attention to their effectiveness. If you neglect them, they may not work as well as you would like. Tracking phosphorus and potassium nutrition through soil and tissue testing is an important step in using these nutrients wisely.

There are many benefits to phosphorus and potassium that improve your bottom line. Ensuring that these major nutrients are supplied at levels needed to provide balanced nutrition is part of a good business plan. Making them your partners and giving them due attention will enable the rest of your management practices to work more effectively.


For more information, contact Dr. T. Scott Murrell, Northcentral Director, PPI, 3579 Commonwealth Road, Woodbury, MN 55125. Phone: (651) 264-1936. E-mail:
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