ReachOut: Procrastinators of the World Unite, Tomorrow

ReachOut: Procrastinators of the World Unite, Tomorrow from United Farmers Cooperative on Vimeo.

Mike Zwingman

Mike Zwingman

Crop removal of nutrients doesn’t change with market price.  $4 corn removes nutrients at the same rate as $7 corn.  This is a bummer.

It’s also a scientific fact though.  240 bushel corn removes 269 pounds of nitrogen, 122 pounds of phosphorous, and 36 pounds of sulfur regardless of the price you get at market.  75 bushel beans remove 326 pounds of nitrogen, 73 of phosphorous, and 27 of sulfur, again, no matter their sale price.

The crop removal of nutrients is a reality and an important one to keep in mind as you plan fertilizer applications for next season.  Regardless of the market climate for corn, this year’s crop was pretty good and you can’t let a smaller profit gain trick you into underestimating its removal rate.

As you plan for next year, fight the urge to back off your fertilizer program as a way to balance out the smaller profit of this year.  Sure you made less, but trying to balance the books by shortchanging next year’s crop will ultimately cost you both money and pain.


Skipping or skimping on the fertilizer for your 2014 crop may not cause an immediate problem, but if it doesn’t cause any issues with next year’s crop, it will cause issues somewhere down the line and will likely lead to more expense and hassle than you’d experience had you just kept up the regular program.

Fertilizing is like doing the dishes.  If you don’t do the dishes one night, you’re probably still okay the next night: there are still plates for the burgers and forks for the salad.  If you’re flush with dishes, you might even be able to go on this way for a while without any interruption in your dinner.  But then.  Then comes the night when you’ve used all the plates and spoons, and you’ve got this big, stinky pile of crusty, awful dishes to contend with before you can eat.  You spend hours scraping and gagging and there’s something fuzzy growing among the plates at the very bottom of the pile.  It’s just about the most horrible evening you’ve ever had.  Ever.

If you just would have kept up with the dishes…

Header1Well, you might be thinking, I won’t not fertilize then.  I’ll just fertilize a little less.  But, friends, eventually even this will put you on the road to stinky dishes.  So you continue to wash half the dishes each night: you double the time to the giant pile, but you still get there and when you get there, it’s still the same nightmare.

Instead of trying to defray this year’s smaller profit by reducing the size or scope of your fertility program, make plans to gain maximum benefits next year by optimizing your fertility investment:

  • Consider strip tilling or banding your fertilizer to deliver the goods right to your plants’ root systems.
  • Invest in effective products that are developed and proven to increase the impact of your fertilizer investment.
  • Make sure you’re putting down the right stuff in the right amount.  Soil samples are the starting point for this, but UFC will help you go a step further (in the right direction) by adjusting for losses due to crop removal that might not be obvious in your sample.  This results in very targeted numbers for your fields and prevents both harmful underestimations and waste.

Not fertilizing or reducing fertilizer are short term fixes that produce long term problems.  If you’re renting your land, check out your rental agreement and keep it in mind as you plan—you’ll want to maintain such land, but perhaps not spend the money to build it up.  If you own the land however, then it’s game on.  To continue to be aggressive with your fertility program regardless of the price of corn is to continue to build your legacy, to increase its worth and productivity in both the immediate and far flung, golden future.