What did your harvest remove from the soil?

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

 This has been another year with variable yields across our trade territory. You are probably hearing about higher-than-expected yields in corn and soybeans and even record yields in some areas. Weather is one factor in that variability, with wide fluctuations from one corner to the other. Areas along I-70 to the west saw significant rain events that caused some flooding, and areas to the northwest and northeast had prolonged periods without precipitation.  

With these variable yields come variable nutrient removals, whether it’s the bottom part of your field or the old clay knob that sits up high. So why do most producers apply the same amount of P and K to those areas? Most of the time the answer is, “Because it’s easy.”  

There are a couple ways we can address these issues through our Nutri-Track program. One is by using grid soil sampling, which captures the nutrient levels in specific parts of your field. At MFA, we use a 2.5-acre grid and pull soil samples in each subsection of the field. This allows us to apply variable-rate fertilizer according to varying needs of the soil. Just picture your field broken down in 2.5-acre sections and treating them differently to maximize your fertilizer dollar.

Another way that Nutri-Track can help you manage variability is by using your yield monitor. It’s more than just a screen showing current yields as you drive through the field. We can take the information from your yield monitor and apply variable-rate P and K based on your actual nutrient removal. When we couple this with our grid-sampling service, you can get on a program to stabilize P and K levels in your fields.  

Over the past few years in our trade area, producers have been removing more nutrients from their fields than they have been replacing. You might not see a yield drag immediately, but at some point you will. MFA’s Nutri-Track program is focused on putting your fertilizer where it is needed and not over-applying where it is not. I can’t promise that Nutri-Track will decrease your fertilizer cost, but I can say that the program helps put those nutrients in the right areas.  

When we look at nutrient removal, we know that 1 bushel of corn removes 0.45 pound of P and 0.25 pound of K, while 1 bushel of soybeans removes 0.9 pound of P and 1.5 pounds of K. Look at your farm’s yields, and do the math. You can see what type of P and K applications are needed to replace the nutrients you just removed. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your local store for more details.

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