Managing N, P and K in No-Till Corn, Soybean Rotations

No-tillers face some tough challenges at planting time that require an active, tailored approach to managing precious, costly inputs.

With spring upon us, no-tillers are probably anxious to get to the field. As you mentally prepare to head to the field and make your last-minute fertilizer and seed decisions and equipment adjustments, take time think about your fertilizer program and make sure you have enough to feed the crop.

Many no-tillers apply dry fertilizer in the fall. This is often a good time because the soil is fit for trafficking compared to spring. Growers have more time in the fall after harvest to get this task done, and there’s time to for products to solubilize and move into the soil into the upper root zone.

All the residue retained on the surface in no-till systems changes the soil and, as a result, nutrients are affected and should be managed a bit differently. There aren’t any really big changes, but small ones that require changes to management practices that will improve nutrient-use efficiency.

Soil Testing Key

Managing nutrients efficiently requires routine soil testing, at least once every 4 years or even as much as every 2 years today. Scientists have learned that phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) concentrate near the soil surface in no-till systems.

Also, the pH is more acidic near the surface than below. Stratification of pH and nutrients is common after several years of continuous no-till. Because of stratification, split sampling (0-4 and 4-8 inches) can be beneficial to see if corrective action is necessary.

Both P and K rates should be based on soil tests, and…

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Davidson_daniel

Daniel Davidson

Veteran farm advisor and agronomist Daniel Davidson no-tills near Stanton, Nebraska, and works as a private consultant.

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