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Fall Fertilization

Oct 14, 2020

By Jeff Blauwet, CFE Technical Agronomist
 

The best time to start on next year’s crop is in the fall before planting. Especially in 2020 with harvest being quite early, we will have more time to get the prep work done. Non-mobile nutrients like Phosphorus, Potassium, and Zinc can be applied with no risk of leaching away (even if or when we get rain again). We should also be thinking about applying lime to remedy acidic soils. 

Key reasons: 

  1. The soils on average are drier thus less compaction potential (and man is this true this fall!) 
  2. The fall generally is the lowest cost time of the year for these fertilizers/limes 
  3. The more work done this fall makes less time needed during the busy planting season 
  4. Since these items are non-mobile in the soil, if you are doing any fall tillage, this would allow better mixing in the soil in the rooting zone 

One key reminder is that when applying Phosphorus, the forms commonly used contains some ammonium nitrogen which is a stable form and non-leachable. This changes to a more mobile form of nitrogen in the soil by microbial activity. This microbial activity slows down but does not totally stop as the soils get below 50 degrees. We maybe need to wait for the soils to cool (and stay cool) for the least conversion and the least loss potential. 

Fall liquid manure also contains a fair amount of nitrogen in the ammonium form thus it is best to wait for the soils to cool down to keep the nitrogen in a stable form. This is difficult given the dynamics for manure application. We can buy some time when applying on warmer soils with Instinct stabilizer, but higher rates may be needed, and it only helps for a period of time. The best use of the stabilizer is with manure and after the soils cool down, so the stabilizer lasts into the late winter/early spring if possible. 

The final key thought is that we generally have seen pretty good yields so when we take more off the field; we need to put more nutrients back on to the field to not go backwards on soil sample test levels. 



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