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Agronomists advise splitting nutrients

Farm Progress Nutrients

Getting the right combination for nutrients is even more important ahead of a tough-to-predict weather scenario, agronomists at the Farm Progress Show said.

BOONE, Iowa — The exact formula for a great crop is constantly evolving. Every season and field is different, but nailing down the right combination of nutrients is getting easier with technology.

Andrew Feucht, product marketing specialist at Precision Planting, visited with farmers at the Farm Progress Show Aug. 31. He said once an assessment of nitrogen levels, P&K and other nutrients is complete, it all comes down to the weather.

“Seventy percent of the yield is going to come from the weather, but that other 30% we can control,” Feucht said. “We have to put in the right nutrients efficiently. We have to watch for good rate control. Every field is different, every region is different, but you should be able to dial in your rates.”

One effective way to avoid over applying or overspending on nutrients is to change up the way these products are being added to the soil, Feucht said. While getting applications done in one pass in the fall or spring may be efficient, it may add too much to the soil at once.

“We are recommending what we call reallocation,” Feucht said. “If you’d normally put 100% of your nitrogen down (at once), cut it to maybe 40%. Put maybe 20% on with a planter and another 20% on with side dressing — I’m just coming up with these numbers, but the point is to add it at different times. Soils can only handle so much at a time, so why waste it?”

Going with smaller applications may be more economical even if it means additional passes. Eric Wilson, field agronomist with Wyffels Hybrids, also spoke at the Farm Progress Show and said with higher fertilizer costs and uncertainty about global production, it may be more of a necessity to apply less.

“I’m keeping a close tab on fertilizer markets and if there are any plant shutdowns,” he said. “If there are any natural gas or propane production issues, that all feeds into the production of fertilizer and the production of P&K and other dry fertilizers.”

However, he stressed if there is a good opportunity to secure fertilizer for this year or future years, take full advantage because it may not be so easy in the coming months.

“If you find something that you can prebook that works for your budget, I wouldn’t be afraid to make that decision,” Wilson said.

After the soil is taken care of, getting the seed to effectively take in those nutrients is the next controllable aspect, Feucht said. One of the focuses of Precision Planting has been about getting good emergence out of the crop.

Both before and after emergence, the weather will impart its 70% role, as Feucht said. With many areas dealing with drought in 2022, Nutrien’s principal atmospheric scientist, Eric Snodgrass said the La Niña pattern makes it uncertain if there will be relief this winter.

“It tends to deliver much above average precipitation in the Northwest United States, but it’s dry from California to Texas to South Carolina — that puts the Midwest in this limbo zone,” Snodgrass said. “We typically don’t like La Niña for winter. They deliver a lot of cold air, which is good, but you don’t necessarily want a jet stream that comes in from the Pacific Northwest.”

The possibility of La Niña could mean a drier winter, but the more northern jet stream would likely push the snow pack to the north, which led to significant floods in 2019.

However, there is a possibility of a weather shift, Snodgrass said.

“There’s a lot of evidence mounting that once you get past the New Year, we may be talking about La Niña fading,” he said. “... We are in the middle of a third year of La Niña, and next year would be the fourth. We don’t have any historical records that would suggest that’s happened since the 1950s.

“Models are also all showing it fading. If it fades by spring we might get better spring moisture.”

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