Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions about custom crop fertilizer applications, we have the answers. Find answers to common questions that are posed to our sales staff.

What’s new in crop nutrition?

Ideas about the amounts of nutrients needed and the methods of application are being reevaluated because of the growing concern about runoff and the interrelationship of nutrients. In the past, farmers often started out on a strong N-P-K fertilization program and simply applied more nitrogen when the crop appeared to be having problems.

Unfortunately, this would not always bring the crop out of stress, and the grower would simply have to watch his yield potential diminish.

Today, successful farmers are reevaluating the need for high rates of nitrogen. They are beginning to understand the value of a more complete and balanced nutritional program that includes the application of secondary and micronutrients. These nutrients help improve crop quality as well as yield.

What is the best way to apply nutrients?

Since the inception of high intensity production agriculture, N-P-K programs have been through many changes. Increasing concerns about the leaching of nitrogen and other nutrients, as well as the switch to conservation tillage practices, have brought about yet another series of changes in the way growers feed their crops. Today’s best management programs call for a mix of both soil and foliar nutrient applications designed to provide the plant with different nutrient needs during its varied growth stages.

I’ve used the same fertilization program for years. Why should I change now?

There is a much better understanding now of how plants use nutrients. Applying that knowledge can give you better quality crops. Today, the goal of a “Best Management” fertilization program is to feed the plant, not the soil. The right amount of nutrients should be available to the plant as it needs them in various stages of its growth. This may mean more applications of lower rates of nutrients throughout the season.

What is the cornerstone of a good production philosophy?

Our goal is not to simply increase yields. Our goal is to preserve the genetic potential of the seed. Our nutritional programs are designed to protect the genetic potential in all stages of the plant growth...seedling, growing plant, and reproducing plant.

Which nutrient determines the maximum crop yield?

The one farthest below its required level for maximum crop yield. For example, if there is only enough zinc to grow 90 bushels of corn per acre, that’s all you will get, even if there is an abundance of other nutrients. It’s Von Liebig’s Law of the minimum, and even though Von Liebig gets credit for it, it is really a law of Nature, one that all growers should understand.

Are equal amounts of each nutrient needed?

No. And the nutrient needs of each crop are different. Substantial research data on soybean crops, for example, shows that just 1/2 ounce of molybdenum per acre can improve yield by as much as 15 bushels per acre at a nominal cost. Each element must be present in sufficient quantity for all the others to work to their potential. Just a small, economical foliar application may be enough to provide that critical quantity of a particular nutrient which is essential for optimum yield.

Is it possible to have too much of one element?

Yes. An excess of one nutrient can create an imbalance, causing deficiencies of others. This is why it is critical to work with your crop consultant in evaluating your total fertilization program and make sure it is in balance. Simply throwing on a little more of one nutrient without knowing exactly what is needed can detract from crop quality and yields, as well as your profit.

What are the essential secondary and micronutrients?

The secondary nutrients are: Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulfur (S). Essential micronutrients are: Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Molybdenum (Mo), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Cobalt (Co), Nickel (Ni), and most recently chloride (Cl).

Besides soil tests, what is the best way of determining if nutrient deficiencies or imbalances exist?

The use of soil tests and tissue analyses are a good guide for establishing a fertilization program, but to a trained eye, your crop is the best indicator of nutrient insufficiencies which cannot be readily determined by any other method. It is essential to pay attention to the “Language of the Plant”. What is it telling you? Your consultant can be your most important ally in spotting potential problems early and prescribing a treatment spray to minimize yield or quality loss. It all begins with your consultant’s custom designed program that is right for your particular crops, growing conditions, and economic return goals. This may mean altering present methods of fertility management, which could result in adjustments to current fertilization practices.

Which is the most effective type of application: soil or foliar?

Both are essential. Soil applications are needed at planting for plants to get a good start. In later stages of growth, foliar applications deliver nutrients directly to the plant’s “food factory”, the leaf. These foliar applications during the season are very valuable in boosting micronutrient levels to improve yield and quality.

How does the plant get the nutrients it needs when it needs them?

A balance of all nutrients must be achieved in each leaf, because this is where the plant gets photosynthates, which are its food. They are transferred out of the leaves to the plant’s growing points (foliage, roots, fruit or nodules), as needed in various stages of its growth. It is critical to feed the plant, not just the soil. With all the required nutrients in place, many of them chelated, the plant can select the nutrients it needs at any stage of growth. This is called “free choice feeding”, and it enables the plant to grow naturally to its full potential.

What are chelates?

They are the keys to “free choice feeding”. Chelate (pronounced “keylate”) is taken from the Greek word for claw. It is an organic complex that chemically combines with elements (zinc, manganese, iron, copper, magnesium or calcium) to protect them from chemical tie-up in the soil or in a fertilizer spray tank. This allows the elements to remain accessible to the plant.

How can efficient fertilization programs reduce environmental concerns?

Proper nutrition helps plants grow healthier and stronger, making them more resistant to disease. In some cases, by increasing the levels of certain nutrients above the level needed for normal yields, farmers can achieve greater disease resistance than previously thought possible. This can reduce the need for crop protection chemicals at a time when many people are stressing the heath advantages of organic produce - and paying higher prices for those benefits.

How much will a balanced nutritional program promoting “free choice feeding” cost?

It may cost no more than what you are already spending on your fertilization program. Often it is simply a matter of reallocating your current fertilizer expenses to make them more efficient through the use of secondary and micronutrients. And these can be tank mixed so that they are applied at the same time as your crop protection products.

Ensuring that adequate levels of nutrients are present can make significant differences in your crop yield and quality, which translates into improves returns for you. Again, your crop consultant is the key to determining the wisest way to spend your nutrition dollars.