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

Winter 1999, No. 6


    Low crop prices and global competition demand that farmers maximize the potential for profits every year. It can be argued that the most reliable way to maximize profits is to strive for high yields. Today’s successful farmer recognizes that balanced fertilization is essential to achieving profitable and sustainable, high yields. To the uninformed, the term—balanced fertilization—may seem like just another “politically correct” term for aggressive fertilization. To most practicing agronomists and progressive farmers, balanced fertilization means providing adequate amounts of the essential nutrients to ensure that yield and crop quality do not suffer. Balanced fertilization also means using appropriate nutrient rates at appropriate times to protect the environment.

    Recent North American soil test summaries continue to indicate that many of the sampled soils test medium or lower in phosphorus and potassium. More importantly, perhaps, many fields have not been soil sampled in recent years. For these non-sampled fields, nutrient applications are being based on little more than a guess. This increases the risk for lowered profitability and for potentially negative impacts on water resources. Numerous studies across North America, especially under high-yield environments, have documented significant improvements in crop nitrogen use efficiency when deficiencies of other nutrients were eliminated through balanced fertilization. Attention to other nutrients, in addition to nitrogen, will ensure the greatest economic and environmental benefits.

    Too many U.S. farmers will never forget the heat and drought experienced in the summers of 1997 through 1999. They had the misfortune of being reminded that marginal soil fertility becomes more apparent under drought-stress. Even though nutrient deficiencies were often detected in time to make corrective fertilization, moisture was frequently inadequate to incorporate and move the nutrients into the active root zone. The question farmers need to ask is...“How do we minimize the potential for lost yields, crop quality, and profits in the future?” One answer is…don’t let soil fertility be the limiting factor in your management program. We have heard it before, but it is time to hear it again…all nutrient applications should be based on current soil tests, realistic yield goals, crop nutrient removal, and reasonable moisture and temperature expectations.

    Sure, but who can predict the weather? Even the professional meteorologist can’t predict more than two or three days in advance. So, what is a farmer to do? One answer is: plan to raise residual soil fertility levels so soil moisture deficits do not take an exaggerated toll on crop development, especially during critical periods in crop development and peak nutrient uptake. Farming on the margin of fertility sufficiency increases the risk of nutrient deficiency during stressful seasons, and during those seemingly rare banner years.

    Experienced fertilizer dealers, certified crop advisers, and crop consultants can help farmers establish crop management plans based on balanced fertilization and plant nutrition. Balanced fertilization…with proper attention to all the essential nutrients…will help minimize the adverse effects of weather on plant nutrition and also reduce the risk of lost yields in favorable years.

    Plan to reduce the risk of lost profits in your fields with balanced fertilization for 2000.


For more information, contact Dr. Cliff S. Snyder, Midsouth Director, PPI, P.O. Drawer 2440, Conway, AR 72033-2440. Phone: (501) 336-8110. E-mail:
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