Fall fertilizer strategies

October 24, 2023
Andrew Scholtz, a CHS agronomist, provides postharvest crop nutrient planning tips growers can follow this fall to help set themselves up for success next year.

Fall fertilizer applications can help control costs and save time. Andrew Scholtz, a CHS agronomist, offers tips to help growers develop an effective season-long nutrient strategy for the following crop year.

“Every day farmers aren’t in the field next spring will cost them money,” says Scholtz. “On top of that, Mother Nature is unpredictable. Farmers need to plan for a lot of different events and determining a fall fertilizer strategy helps do that.”

Use Soil Sampling to Gauge All Nutrient Needs

“Soil sampling gives us a base. We want to know if we’re over- or under-applying nutrients to give the crop the opportunity to yield as much as it’s going to,” Scholtz says. “There’s something called the law of minimums we can apply, meaning that even though you have an abundant amount of nutrients in the soil, if you’re lacking one of them, your crops might not perform at the level they otherwise would.”

Follow the 4Rs

Adopting the 4Rs of fertilizer – right source, right rate, right place and right time – can help maximize crop and profit potential.

“To increase yields and revenue, we need to figure out what’s right, where we’re placing fertilizer and how much of it we’re placing,” says Scholtz. “We have a couple of technologies for this, but my biggest belief is in boom floaters. They really deliver on accuracy with GPS and using variable-rate technologies. If an acre doesn’t need nutrients, we’re not placing it there.”

Protect Your Fertilizer Investment

Scholtz recommends growers do everything they can to keep nutrients in the soil and available to crops to boost production and protect the environment.

“The CHS agronomy team developed a technology that can protect phosphorus sources as they’re being applied to fields so they’re readily available in the spring when you need them. Trivar® is a fertilizer additive that protects phosphorus sources from being tied up in soil,” he says.

Scholtz also points to timely nitrogen application and using nitrogen stabilizers as another key strategy for boosting return on fertilizer investment.

The agronomist says the rule of thumb is to get below 50 degrees F in soil to stabilize nitrogen, but freeze-thaw cycles interfere with the process. “All of these moisture events can have an impact on nitrogen. You need to evaluate what’s going on with weather patterns and what your soil is doing over the winter to protect nitrogen and nitrogen stabilizers can really help.”

Tractor applying fertilizer on a recently harvested corn field on a sunny day with clear blue skies