High input costs are on every farmer’s mind these days as they look for ways to manage expenses and to determine what crops make the most financial sense to grow. In this article, Heather Overton with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture gives advice to growers struggling with high fertilizer prices.
There is still a window of time for farmers to submit soil samples for testing and get a scientific recommendation on how much nutrients need to be applied. This is not the year to guess on fertilizer needs. The agronomists with the North Carolina department of agriculture are recommending that farmers spend money on lime to ensure the soil has an adequate pH of 5.8 to 6.2 for mineral soils planned for corn and soybeans.
No one wants to apply more nutrients than are needed, so I would highly recommend taking soil samples across your farm to see what is needed to optimize production. The turnaround time in the lab right now is 7 to 10 days, which would still give farmers time to get solid, science-backed information that might help reduce their costs. For the past two years, Agronomic Services staff have worked with researchers at N.C. State to refine fertilizer recommendations for corn, soybeans and small grains.
That has resulted in an overall recommendation to reduce fertilizer phosphorous for certain crops, which is especially good news given the high input costs today. In carefully reviewing studies on fertilizer application here in North Carolina, the research has shown that much of the benefit of starter fertilizer is from nitrogen alone.
With phosphorous availability controlled by soil pH, liming soils will ensure that phosphorous in the soil is available for plant uptake. Potassium and sulfur are other key nutrients for plant growth and production. We have more than 400 soil types in North Carolina, so, again, soil tests will give growers science-based recommendations that will help ensure good crop production. That precision is important this year. The bottom line is, “Test, don’t guess.”