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Fertilizer Application: Timing is Everything

Fertilizer Application: Timing is Everything

The Seasonal Variations of N & P

While giving customers hands-on knowledge of products is important, the real test of product efficacy comes as combines roll through the fields at harvest.

Recently, Darin Lickfeldt, Ph. D., hosted a field day event in Catlin, Illinois, for retailers and distributors to see firsthand how new technologies are performing out in the field. As the fall planning months and next year’s growing season move into focus, analyzing the ROI value of fertilizer inputs and seed treatments will be top of mind for farmers.

“This is a good time of year to assess your practices,” says Darin. “Lots of growers will be making their decisions for fall fertilizer and the next growing season based on what they see right now.”

When thinking about a field’s future phosphorus (P) needs, this is a good time to look at the specific areas of concern, such as lodging and stalk health. If phosphorus deficiency is noticed (i.e. poor yield), a fertilizer enhancer might be in order.

For nitrogen (N) fertilizer, this is also an excellent time to assess application practices. Some growers will choose to put down anhydrous in the fall, but its availability will depend in part to how the winter weather plays out. If the winter weather is cold and soils stay frozen, the nitrogen losses will be less noticeable. But if the winter is mild, nitrogen losses could be significant.

“If customers are going to apply N in the fall, they really owe it to themselves and to the environment to use a product that helps manage the N and reduce losses,” says Darin.

Darin says if there’s any way to hold off until spring for an N application, it is the best plan of action, as current practices recommend applying N at key times when the plant needs it. In many cases, at least two different applications of N are suggested.

“Spring is really the preferred time to apply N, because it’s closer to the time that the plant will use it,” Darin says. “Fall applications should only be done in situations where they are absolutely necessary.”

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