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

Fall 2000, No. 5


The nutrient management component of crop production is becoming more complicated every year….or is it? The basic component is the same as it has always been: Put together a plan to provide the nutrients the crop will need throughout its growing season. What has changed is the technology and information that we have available to help create that plan. We are better equipped to know crop needs and what the soil can supply to meet those needs, and better equipped to know what nutrients should be supplied and when. The choices of what and how to apply additional nutrients are better than ever. And…we have never been more able to measure, document and interpret the results of our decisions.

Begin with a PLAN. Build on research information and your own knowledge and experience on your own fields. Create a nutrient management plan that will supply adequate nutrients for the crop throughout the season, maintain or enhance the soil nutrient supply as needed, and prevent unnecessary adverse effects on the environment. Monitor the crop with field scouting, in-field or laboratory plant analysis, and various types of remote sensing. As these tools are refined, we will continue to enhance our ability to develop a successful nutrient management plan.

Soil testing is a basic component. Sample on a systematic pattern (either by grid or management zone) to document trends in soil nutrient levels. A two- to four-year sampling cycle may be sufficient, but there might be an advantage to annual sampling on at least some of the fields. Scout fields for nutrient deficiencies and take extra soil and plant samples to document any problems. All of these observations….soil tests and scouting…should be geographically referenced as to location in the field. If you don’t have access to a global positioning system (GPS), measure locations from a fixed point in the field. Take photographs to further document observations and record location and date of each one. These all become part of the PLAN.

Review research information on nutrient management. Recent developments regarding timing and placement of fertilizer and manure applications may be important to your PLAN. Check the internet for research reports and Extension information. All universities and most companies have websites to provide current information. The PPI website ( is an excellent link to nutrient management.

Review your records. Soil test changes, yield data, and other records from your farm are a valuable resource on what works for you. Learn from your successes and failures through a good record system.

Prepare the PLAN with the help of local advisers…tapping their knowledge and experience to improve your plan. Finally, EXECUTE THE PLAN. It is of no value until implemented. Measure the results, revise the PLAN, and build on it for the next year. Don’t wait until it is time to go to the field. You have to PLAN for success.

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:
Copyright 1996-2018 by Potash & Phosphate Institute. All rights reserved.