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The No-Till Target: Efficient Fertilizer Placement

How and where you apply your fertilizer — and in what form — can make a big impact on your no-till yields.

 What producer doesn’t want to make the most efficient use of their fertilizer dollars? But more than ever, no-tillers are looking for ways to slash fertilizer costs while maximizing corn, soybean and wheat yields, says Phil Needham. 

“If I had $5 for every producer that called me and asked how they could stretch their fertilizer dollar, I could put my son through college,” says the consultant and owner of Needham Ag Technologies. “There are a lot of practical ideas that producers can incorporate to lower their fertilizer bill.”

Needham told attendees at last January’s National No-Tillage Conference that producers must take a broad view of their fertility program.

“As you increase your fertility, you will see an increase in the crop’s response — up to a point,” Needham says. “And overall yield can vary for many reasons. It can be impacted by stand, hybrid selection, nutrient timing, residue management and weeds, to name a few variables.”

Accurate Placement

Needham says one factor that can severely limit yield is uneven fertilizer application. He shared the example of an Iowa field he photographed that showed uneven growth of corn with some plants tasseled and others not.

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“Knowing the area, knowing the number of producers in the area, knowing some of the dealers, there’s a lot of fertilizer broadcast in this area,” Needham says. “Nutrient distribution was a big weakness in this field. Money was spent for the fertilizer, but uneven application hurt the field.

“If you use GPS to place fertilizer in…

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