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Use soil testing, not crop removal, to determine fertilizer rates

Agriculture.com Staff 10/05/2006 @ 9:14am

During fall harvest, crop producers are concerned about weather, yields and commodity prices. After harvest, concerns switch rapidly to fertilizer recommendations and associated costs.

Crop producers should take time this fall to think about fertilizer and ask themselves if they should follow the same plan as in past years or make a change for 2007, says George Rehm, soil scientist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

"Consider costs and returns when thinking about fertilizer use this fall," said Rehm. "Base application rates on the results of analysis of soil samples. Don't depend on crop removal."

Crop removal refers to the nutrient uptake of plants from the soil. University of Minnesota trials show that this approach to fertilizer use is very expensive and usually results in application of excessive rates of fertilizer.

"If fertilizer applications used in the past have been based on crop removal, there should be a change," Rehm said. "Higher rates of fertilizer translate to higher costs. And the higher cost of fertilizer is not offset by higher yields."

The best approach, according to Rehm, is to use soil testing and follow fertilizer guidelines. Based on the results of several University of Minnesota field trials, efficient rates of fertilizer are applied when using this approach. Rehm points out that these efficient rates usually have a lower price tag without a reduction in crop yield.

The field trials were conducted at four University of Minnesota Research and Outreach centers over a period of five years.

During fall harvest, crop producers are concerned about weather, yields and commodity prices. After harvest, concerns switch rapidly to fertilizer recommendations and associated costs.

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