Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Balanced soil fertility management is critical for achieving crop genetic yield potential and maximizing profitability.Recent evidence found in a new DuPont Pioneer soil fertility update for Ohio suggests that P and K fertilizer rates may not be keeping pace with higher nutrient removal rates that are accompanied by increasing crop yields in some fields.“We wanted to capitalize on our on-farm trial efforts within Ohio and we felt that if we knew what the fertility status was that would give us a benchmark for what our corn hybrid performance would be for those trials as well,” said Kirk Reese, Agronomy Research Manager for DuPont Pioneer. “What we found was that about two-thirds of the state’s 750 samples that we collected were in either an optimum or high range for phosphorus and the remaining third was in a low range according to the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations.”On the potassium side of the testing, over 80% was rated in the optimum or high range.Although much of this new research puts an emphasis on yield results, other factors were considered as well.“There are some very important things that P and K do for a corn crop in terms of yield,” Reese said. “Having an optimum level of those elements in the soil also helps with grain quality and stand ability — factors that are important for a successful crop.”Phosphorus is critical in the process of converting solar radiation into energy and storing it as carbohydrates. Optimum P fertility also promotes early root and shoot growth as well as tolerance to drought, disease and temperature stress.Potassium is vital in water regulation and enzyme activation. Stomata, which are the openings in the leaf used for gas exchange, open and close by movement of K+ in and out of cells surrounding the opening. Optimum K fertility also promotes stalk strength and late season standability because it slows stalk dry down after maturity. This helps stalks sustain elasticity and strength until harvest.As growers in Ohio continue to figure out best practices for their operations from a nutrient management perspective and for water quality, the balance between producing a profitable crop while not bankrupting public opinion needs to be found. The results of the soil fertility update did not discriminate when it came to how things are testing in Ohio’s major watershed regions.“These tests were done on a farm by field basis in terms of whether results of P and K came back low, optimum or high,” Reese said. “You do see all three of those categories in all of the sensitive watersheds, so we want to make sure farmers are doing the right thing in terms of applying fertilizer in those sensitive areas.”Riparian strips, tillage regimes and not over applying nutrients all remain important aspects when considering soil test results.“If a farmer puts the right rate of fertilizer in the right spots, it’s a win-win situation,” Reese said. “Those practices certainly help minimize input costs and get the back-end yield results that growers expect, not to mention the environmental stewardship that will be achieved as well.”The most important part of reaching the optimum levels of P and K on the farm is with persistent soil testing. DuPont Pioneer recommends tests as stringent as every year but no less than every three years.Farmers may also want to consider the Encirca Yield Fertility Management Service, which aligns yield and soil test data to allocate nutrients based on the potential return on fertilizer investment for each management zone in the field. Variable rate applications integrate agronomic and economic factors that drive profitability.
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