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December 1, 2023
Growers understand the importance of mapping out their fertility plan early to set themselves up for a winning season. That includes knowing the impact of the money spent on fertilizer. It’s a critical step to securing the highest returns possible. While it’s well understood that fertilizer is essential for healthy, productive crops, what’s often less known is how much actually gets utilized by crops. The latest data shows that up to 50% of applied nitrogen and 85% of applied phosphorus is wasted due to weather loss, nutrient tie-up and degraded soils.
Nitrogen fertilizers are prone to leaching during rain events or volatilizing into the atmosphere as N2O gas and, for growers, that’s money down the drain. Phosphorus, on the other hand, binds tightly to elements like aluminum, calcium and iron in the soil, forming compounds that plants cannot use. This soil tie-up is why some growers may have high levels of the nutrient in their soil but still end up with phosphorus deficient crops.
And, although they’re needed in significantly smaller quantities, micronutrients play just as important a role in crop health as macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The list of essential plant micronutrients is long and includes copper, manganese, boron, nickel, iron, molybdenum, zinc and chlorine, each with an important and unique role to play in the plant.
These losses affect a grower’s bottom line and can also be hard on the environment. So, how can growers dial in their fertilizer use to avoid waste and still give crops what they need to reach their full potential? The answer lies in the soil.
Soil health plays a key role in ensuring a grower’s crops have access to plant-available forms of both micro and macronutrients throughout the season. The organic matter present in healthy soils is an excellent source of many of the nutrients crops need, in addition to providing other benefits such as increased water-holding capacity, improved drainage, good soil tilth and an active soil microbiome.
Keeping microbes operating at peak performance can be tricky. It’s hard to keep track of the health of something you can’t see. Decades of synthetic fertilizer use have caused soil microbes to go dormant, meaning they aren’t providing crops with the amount of nutrients they’re capable of. But now, there’s a solution that wakes up microbes to increase nutrient availability: SOURCE® by Sound Agriculture.
Waking up microbes in the soil provides a broad spectrum of macro and micronutrients when they are needed the most. Photo submitted by Sound Agriculture.
SOURCE mimics a plant-to-microbe signal that activates nitrogen-fixing bacteria and phosphate-solubilizing microbes to increase access to plant-available nutrients. Unlike biologicals, SOURCE is a chemistry that activates more than 200 species of microbes in the soil, which provide a broad spectrum of macro and micronutrients when they are needed the most.
New research from the University of Illinois demonstrates just how valuable active soils can be in corn. Studies found that “... corn takes up the majority of its nitrogen – about 67% on average – from sources occurring naturally in soil, not from fertilizer.”1
New studies show that corn takes up 67% of its nitrogen from the soil. Photo submitted by Sound Agriculture.
SOURCE can be used on corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, alfalfa and grass hay. It is applied as a foliar spray and provides the equivalent of 25 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus per acre. SOURCE is easily tank mixed with herbicides or fungicides for a free ride into the field. And, SOURCE has a low use rate of 1.0 to 2.5 ounces per acre — depending on the crop — which makes it easy to store, transport and apply.
Growers can learn more at sound.ag.
1. How much nitrogen does corn get from fertilizer? Less than farmers think., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, May 31, 2023.
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