As combines roll across most of the country, there is more being removed from the fields than just a crop. In fact, every time a crop is grown and harvested, nutrients are being taken from the soil that need to be replaced if a successful crop is to be expected for the following season.
Research has shown that up to 60 percent of yield is dependent on soil fertility. Dr. Fred Below, professor of crop science at the University of Illinois, conducted research that showed how much fertilizer is taken up each day by high-yielding crops. For soybeans averaging 62 bushels per acre, nearly 17 pounds of fertilizer are removed from each acre every day during peak growth times. Meanwhile, corn yielding an average of 220 bushels per acre is removing nearly twice that amount, or more than 32 pounds of fertilizer per acre every day.
Because of significant technological advancements, higher yields than ever before are possible. But with higher yields come greater levels of nutrients removed.
Balanced crop nutrition is critical every year, with every crop, but as yields increase, it becomes increasingly important to focus on delivering the right nutrients to the crop. Skipping a season of phosphorus (P) or potassium (K) may save input costs in the short term, but it can create yield drag this coming season and beyond, making it a long-term issue that requires a significant investment to fix.
What is the best way to ensure your crop will get the nutrients it needs? First, set your yield goal. Then, use a tool (such as Mosaic’s nutrient removal table) to determine how much of each nutrient is needed to achieve those yields. Finally, work with your agronomist to best understand what nutrient levels exist in your soils, based on recent soil tests. Giving your crop the right nutrition from the first day it’s in the ground can make your yield goals a reality.
Later in the year, when yield totals roll in during harvest, consider the nutrients being removed from the field along with the grain. Sustainable high-yield cropping systems require a well-researched application strategy, understanding which nutrients are taken from the soil every time a crop is grown, and incorporating best management practices.
Learn more about fertilizer application best practices and crop nutrient removal at www.cropnutrition.com.