Fall soil fertility best practices

September 15, 2022
Fall fertilizer applications can help balance spring workloads and ensure crops have the nutrients they need for a strong start next season. Mark Herz, technical product specialist for CHS, offers best practices for managing fall crop nutrient applications.

One benefit of a warm, dry summer is an early start to the harvest season in many areas. That could leave more time this fall for fieldwork, including postharvest nutrient applications. Mark Herz, technical product specialist at CHS, shares best practices for managing fall soil fertility and maximizing return on investment.

Use data to inform fertility decisions

The data you’ve collected during the growing season can provide a helpful foundation for creating an effective fertility plan. Herz says soil test results, yield and soil maps, and other agronomic information will help farmers get more prescriptive with their fall fertilizer applications to optimize profitability potential for next season.

Prioritize immobile nutrients for fall applications

Applying nutrients in the fall can free up time in the spring when weather and field prep pose logistical challenges. While fall fertilizer applications can help balance workloads, nutrient applications must be managed effectively to ensure nutrients remain in the soil until spring. Herz recommends considering nitrogen stabilizers and prioritizing immobile soil nutrients over those that move more freely for fall applications.

“Immobile macronutrients, including phosphorus and potassium, are ideal for fall applications because they should stay relatively stable in the soil until next spring. Several immobile micronutrients, including zinc, iron and magnesium, are also good candidates for fall application,” says Herz.

Build a flexible plan

Fertilizer shortages and fluctuating prices are still a concern for next season, so Herz encourages farmers to communicate with their cooperative agronomy team members regularly. “Build a plan with some contingency provisions to account for uncertainty next spring, whether that’s environmental conditions or fertilizer supply shortages.”

Optimize nutrient placement

As you plan your crop nutrition strategy, consider fertilizer placement to optimize efficiency and nutrient uptake. Herz  suggests working with co-op consultants to evaluate whether variable rate technology could be a good fit for an operation. Developing a prescriptive approach based on field characteristics, nutrient removal and yield goals can help improve efficiency and value of fertilizer applications.