As commodity prices fall, economic pressures rise. In an effort to save money, growers may make tough calls to eliminate what may not seem essential to their operations. Saving a little cash on the front end seems intuitive, however it comes with the hefty price of sacrificing plant health and yields.
This begs the question, are growers who cut inputs during planting season really saving any money? According to accepted research and data on nutrient availability, crops that are denied access to vital nutrients in early growth stages will not live up to their full potential in health or yields.
Through LIFT, we know that many micronutrients in the soil are critical for healthy crop development. Phosphorus and nitrogen are a huge industry focus right now, but there is much more to nutrient efficiency than targeting only one or two nutrients.
We’ve discussed the benefits of using a chelating agent to keep nutrients like phosphorus soluble for uptake, but some chelating agents only make phosphorus soluble and ignore other crucial nutrients in the soil.
In the audio clip below, Brian Kuehl discusses the importance of considering all micronutrients:
“There’s a number of micronutrients that are critical for crop development. The big micronutrient we run into that is very vital to a number of crops is zinc, followed by iron, manganese and copper. You can have all the nitrogen in the world, but if you don’t have enough of any other one nutrient to get to the yield that the nitrogen level is at, that one micronutrient or minor nutrient will be the limiting factor for the crop. A lot of times, we get focused around looking at all nutrients like we look at nitrogen. From a nitrogen standpoint, a pound applied to the soil is the pound that is in the soil. And the more nitrogen you apply, generally speaking and up to a certain point, the more yield you get. Unlike nitrogen – whether it’s phosphorus or micronutrients – a pound that you apply to the soil is not a pound that is available to the plant. There are a lot of interactions and chemistry that happens in the soil. Fertilizers that contain phosphorus and micronutrients can be tied up in the soil, so you have to be very careful in how you apply them. You have to choose them wisely, and choose products that will allow those to be available to the plant. For a grower looking to cut input costs, he needs to take a real hard look at becoming more efficient in choosing the right inputs and using them the right way. A lot of times, growers are used to using older fertilizers, they use high volumes and high amounts, and those fertilizers are not very efficient.”