Examine Application Methods To Get The Most From Fertilizer

No-tillers who utilize tissue sampling, band fertilizers, scout for nutrient deficiencies and know the limitations of their soil types can squeeze more bushels of corn from productive no-till soils.

While there are plenty of tools available today for no-tillers to grow high-yielding corn, failure to use all of them can cause corn yield to be left on the table. 

No-tillers who want to maximize efficiency from applied and residual nutrients must account for both the present crop and soil fertility needs of future crops, and have a good understanding of nutrient reactions, says retired Virginia Tech fertility specialist Mark Alley.

Fertilizer sources and application methods can also impact no-till fertility, depending on the weather and environment, the consultant to Koch Agronomic Services told attendees at the 2013 National No-Tillage Conference.

Sample Plant Tissues

Alley suggests no-tillers make tissue sampling a regular part of their corn program to better focus on what nutrients young plants less than 12 inches tall need during the spring and summer to maximize yield.

Don’t just think about nitrogen, Alley says. Boron, sulfur and zinc deficiencies may not be as visually obvious as nitrogen, but could limit corn yields. If a deficiency is found with sulfur, for example, the nutrient could be mixed with nitrogen during sidedressing to take care of a hidden problem.

“Even if the corn looks good, take tissue samples,” Alley says. “If everything comes back fine, you can sleep well at night knowing you’ve done everything you can.”

The exception might be tougher environmental conditions with major growth stress, such as cold or drought, where the results of tissue samples may not be representative, making it important to understand plant responses…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein was senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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