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Be Precise With Fall Fertilizer Applications

Soil testing, variable-rate technology and calibration are critical in managing a successful no-till nutrient program.

Considering the large increases in commodity and fertilizer prices, fine-tuning your fertilization program will definitely pay big dividends. Soil testing and yield monitoring are essential in helping you determine your crop’s fertilizer needs.

Soil Testing

Compared to other production costs, soil testing and analysis is a small investment. It will help you manage your fertilizer dollars to maximize your farm profitability.

Sampling soils every 3 years on a 2-acre grid puts soil fertility analysis costs at about $2.50 per acre per year. This is a small price to pay compared to the $125-plus per acre you are spending on your fertilizer inputs.

Variable-Rate Technology

When determining how much fertilizer and lime to apply, the first thing to evaluate is the uniformity of soil tests across your no-tilled fields.

If you have fairly uniform soil test levels and yields within your fields, you can apply fertilizer economically with traditional spreading systems. However, if soil tests and yields are quite variable, then it may be time to consider using variable-rate technology to apply fertilizer at variable rates to make sure fertilizer nutrients are being applied where they are most needed.

Previously, lower fertilizer prices allowed you to overfertilize in some field areas so you didn’t have to use variable-rate technology. But today’s high fertilizer prices should encourage you to adopt variable-rate technology to save on fertilizer purchases and still maintain high yields.

Use yield maps to evaluate yield variability and determine if you can use fixed crop fertilizer recommendations, or if you…

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Leverich_jim

Jim Leverich

Jim Leverich no-tills near Sparta, Wis., and serves as an onfarm research coordinator for the University of Wisconsin.

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