Economics Favor Healthy Soils
Nutrient use efficiency can lead to cost efficiency next growing season. With current fertilizer prices being so high, farmers need to find a plan that is good for both their soil and pocketbook.
Sticking with a “spread and hope” tactic does not make sense, because soils aren’t buckets that we can pour nutrients into in the fall and have them available when the plants need them the next growing season. A lot happens over time and fertilizer value is lost with that approach. By learning how soil processes actually function, farmers can make better decisions about what, when, where, and how to apply fertilizers.
The Maximum Farming System optimizes nutrient use efficiencies by providing farmers what their soil truly needs. With the knowledge of natural plant and soil processes, farmers can apply fewer nutrients, get more uptake of those applied nutrients, build soil health, and improve yields. The bottom line is that farmers will get a better value from their fertilizer dollars if they work with, and not against, natural soil processes.
For example, consider how nitrogen and phosphorus cycle through soils and how dry applications can interfere with processes that work to support crop growth. Most of the industry acknowledges that biology plays a role in nutrient cycling, but they often treat that aspect of the soil as a liability, not an asset. Growers are encouraged to use nitrification and urease inhibitors to reduce biological cycling of nitrogen, but they could achieve better agronomic use efficiencies simply by splitting applications of nitrogen in the springtime.
Likewise, seed and furrow-applied fungicides are recommended to reduce seedling loss and/or increase vigor, but these chemicals can delay the development of healthy mycorrhizal symbioses that deliver most of the phosphorus to plant roots. Banded and liquid applications can do more at lower cost to the grower than application of dry P.
Farmers should call their fertilizer dealer and stop any planned applications until they have a clearer picture of how much dry fertilizer their fields really need. They should then get a complete soil test that examines specific management zones and base application rates and input plans off that.
Transitioning to a system approach that delivers applied nutrients in the forms plants can use them, when and where they need them, and at lower total application rates, will improve farmers’ bottom line while promoting healthier soils. Two birds with one stone.