News > Proactive Crop Nutrient Planning

Proactive Crop Nutrient Planning

May 04, 2020

Year over year most farmers have a good idea of how much nitrogen they plan to apply to their crops, but many probably haven’t given much thought to micronutrient fertilizers. The fact is, insufficient micronutrients can be just as detrimental to crop development as a macronutrient deficiency.

Many think that since micronutrients are only required in small amounts they would rarely be limiting, however changes in field conditions and soil composition can significantly impact micronutrient availability to plants. By the time plants show symptoms of nutrient deficiency, it’s often too late for corrective action.

That being said, one of the best ways to manage in season nutrient levels is through tissue sampling. It gives us a live snapshot of how well the plant is performing, even if we think there's ample nutrients in the soil and fertilizer we've applied. A great analogy for this is a bank account: Soil tests show you how much money (nutrients) you have in the bank; a tissue test shows you how much money the plant is pulling out of the bank.  While you may have lots of money in the soil, the plant may not be able to pull this money out of the bank due to soil characteristics like pH, soil type, CEC, compaction, soil temp, soil moisture, and other factors. 

The tissue test is a valuable measurement in correcting deficiencies for the current year, but what a tissue sample does not tell you is where the plant will be nutritionally in the future. That is why we recommend doing multiple tissue samples throughout the year, prior to critical plant growth stages to monitor nutrient levels over time. This also gives us a sound road map on how to fertilize the following fall or spring to maximize future yields and ROI.  Remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure!

Below is a chart of Cooperative Producers, Inc.'s tissue sample results from 2018 & 2019. As you will notice, several nutrients show up deficient or responsive on more than 50% of all samples.


Use this information to help tweak your fertility plans if you have not done soil or tissue sampling in the past, and start having a conversation around the importance of sampling in season.  Products like Symbol™ Release and Corn Mix LS can give growers a nice boost to help correct our most common deficiencies in this area.

Having a pulse on the nutrient status of your crop throughout the season can allow for fertilization adjustments to mitigate deficiencies. Soil testing, done in conjunction with tissue testing, can provide a comprehensive set of data that can help you better understand nutrient availability and uptake to your crops.

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