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

Spring 2001, No. 5


As we move into the 2001 growing season, it is a good idea to take another look at the crop nutrient budget for each field. Since last fall, new soil test information may be in hand that can give a better picture of soil nutrient status, particularly any areas of fields that may be marginal in meeting crop needs for all nutrients. Remember that unless all nutrients are at optimum levels, there is a high risk of limiting yields. For example, most efficient nitrogen use depends on potassium and phosphorus supplies in the high range.

Some intended fall applications of potash and phosphate were not completed last fall. Be sure to add those in the spring to keep nutrient management plans on track. On level or gently sloping fields, take advantage of frozen ground to get fertilizer applied with the least soil compaction. Even if it means planting delays, maintaining soil nutrient levels avoids unnecessary risk. Since nutrients are basic components of yield, there is no way to produce optimum yields with sub-optimum nutrient supplies.

Have crop plans changed? Shifting plans for a field from soybeans to corn, for example, may mean a need to adjust fertilizer application plans from what was intended last fall. If final 2000 yields were higher than expected, adjust fertilizer application to account for higher crop removal. Don’t short-change the next crop.

Review research reports. New information from university and industry sources may provide guidance in fine-tuning nutrient plans. Check with your dealer, your Extension office, and various Internet web sites for the latest information. Review plans with your dealer and crop adviser. They may have gained some new information from winter training sessions that will be important to your situation. Most dealers and crop advisers attend a series of update sessions each winter to stay in tune with latest research and recommendations. They are part of your management decision “team”, so take advantage of their support.

Review the short-term and long-term. Don’t interrupt progress toward soil test and yield goals. Often these plans take several years to implement and must bridge weather, yield, and market cycles. A good plan implemented systematically is the best approach to reaching those goals and maintaining profitability.

If spring weather patterns result in a tight schedule for planting, plans may need to be adjusted again. If potassium and phosphorus soil tests are high, you may be able to delay applications with minimal risk. But be sure to adjust plans for next season accordingly. If soil tests are medium or below, there is a much higher risk of reduced yields if the fertilizer is not applied. It is important to provide the needed nutrients.

For nitrogen, cutting back or delaying application poses a higher risk. While it may be possible to get by with a slightly lower rate when applied in spring, the option of not applying nitrogen doesn’t exist. It is also important to review weather since fall applications were made to determine whether nitrogen losses would be expected. If nitrogen was applied before soil temperatures cooled down, or if fall through spring rainfall has been unusually high, there may be a need for supplemental nitrogen application.

Review and refine plans now, adjust as needed, and plan for a good year. Every bushel put at risk from inadequate nutrition is a potential for missed opportunity for maintaining profits in the coming year.

For more information, contact Dr. Harold F. Reetz, Jr., Midwest Director, PPI, 111 E. Washington Street, Monticello, IL 61856-1640. Phone: (217) 762-2074. E-mail:
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