Alternative Fertilizer Sources Require Some Caution

With higher fertilizer prices taking a bite out of profits, the thought of getting free fertilizer from more unconventional sources sounds appealing.

And while there are some interesting options available, one no-tiller says you need to proceed with caution.

For Allan Brooks of Markesan, Wis., his alternative fertilizer source for a number of years was wastewater from a nearby cheese plant.

“They would apply the wastewater when we weren’t planting,” Brooks says. “It was a low-cost deal, because they were giving me a source of fertilizer that they needed to get rid of.”

Brooks says the nutrient value of the wastewater was about 20 pounds of nitrogen, phosphorous and potash per year in an organic form.

“Sometimes more, sometimes less,” he says. “But it was not always available to the plant, and it would take some time for the nutrients to shake loose.”

One consideration with alternative fertilizer sources is the need to work with the supplier to determine how and when materials will be applied.

“Application methods weren’t always as uniform as I would have liked,” he says. “And because it was considered wastewater, application was heavily regulated by the Department of Natural Resources.

“Application through a field could vary depending on how they were permitted to apply. That meant we would have to go back in and make fertilizer applications to correct other areas of the field.”

No-tillers should also be cautious on how the material is being spread on the field.

Brooks didn’t want the wastewater injected…

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