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Develop a Nutrient Plan for 2020 Corn and Soybeans

It’s a tough yet important job when 2019 isn’t finished yet. 

For generations of farmers to come, the year 2019 will be remembered with disdain. Late planting of corn and soybeans, acre after acre of prevented planting, and a harvest season that just wouldn’t end.

“Yes, 2019 is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Ross Bender, senior agronomist with the Mosaic Company. “But it’s important to limit the negative effects of 2019 into the 2020 growing season.” 

A solid crop nutrient plan for 2020, developed with your crop adviser or retail partner, will help ease some of the stress of the 2019 season, Bender says. 

That’s because the domino effect of 2019 field operations is spilling over into next year. A late harvest means farmers are less likely to perform fall tillage. Moreover, it’s likely some farmers may be unable to pull soil samples or apply fall fertilizer. 

Yet, there are some strategies farmers can deploy to get the 2020 crop year started, Bender says. 

Plan for Missing Nutrients

If you’ve typically pulled soil samples in the fall to determine the next year’s crop nutrient needs but there is still crop standing in the field, you have a couple of options. In the event that field conditions do not permit you to pull samples, sit down with your retailer or crop adviser to plan for next year, Bender says. 

In lieu of soil tests, farmers can use yield maps to determine which nutrients were removed from the field. According to the Ohio State University, here are your crop removal rates:

  • 180-bushel corn: 134 pounds N; 62 pounds P205; 36 pounds K20
  • 60-bushel soybeans: 213 pounds N; 47 pounds P205; 68 pounds K20

Bender adds that growers can pull soil samples in the spring, too. “Normally we want to collect our soil samples the same time of the year each soil sampling season. But some information is better than no information, obviously.”

Ross Bender, Mosaic Company
Ross Bender, Mosaic Company
If yield maps are not available and soil tests could not be performed, Bender recommends using scale tickets to get an idea of crop removal rates.

“If you know what was run across the scale and what fields it came from, you can use scale tickets to get a baseline,” he says.  

Bender adds that it’s critical to adhere to the fertilizer industry’s 4 R’s of Nutrient Stewardship: right source, right rate, right time, and right place. 

If you are able to apply nitrogen in the fall, for example, it’s crucial that farmers apply a nitrogen stabilizer.  

Micronutrient Needs

Don’t forget micronutrients like boron and sulfur, Bender says. 

“It’s fairly rare to find a crop that doesn’t benefit from sulfur. There are fairly well-established and consistently documented yield increases that come from sulfur,” he explains. 

Plus, boron – along with zinc – are two of the most deficient nutrients in the U.S. and Canada, he adds. 

“If acres are in an extreme drought or are extremely waterlogged, a little boron won’t fix them. But if we have acres that are well managed, or we push for high yield, we consistently see a higher response to boron,” Bender explains. 

Trust Your Team

Having a healthy conversation with your retailer or crop adviser may be more important this year than ever. It’s also more complex, as farmers are trying to develop plans for 2020 when they may not yet have all the information from 2019.

Growers who are proactive and willing to share the wins and losses from 2019 with their agronomy team can develop a solid road map for 2020.

“Every field has a unique personality and a unique set of challenges,” Bender says. “It’s a time-intensive process to put these plans into place, but it is important to tailor these fields individually.” 

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