Weather is one of those things you can't control, but you might not be completely at the mercy of the elements.

There are ways to combat less-than-optimal growing conditions, according to IMC Global, Lake Forest, IL. The company, which makes concentrated phosphates and potash fertilizers, maintains that a well-balanced soil fertility program is one of the best stabilizers a grower can have in his arsenal.

“Good weather often masks poor fertility,” says Ray Hoyum, vice president, market development and communications, IMC USA. “We've worked with the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI) to find out how nutrients contribute to plant health during less-than-optimal growing seasons.”

Nutrient levels in your soil might be lower than you think. Of the 2.5 million soil samples in a summary update conducted by PPI in 2001, 47% tested medium to low in phosphorus (P) and 43% tested medium to low in potash (K).

So while you might be tempted to cut back on fertilizer applications this spring, optimum fertility may be more important now than ever, says Paul Fixen, senior vice president, North American program coordinator and director of research for PPI. Soil testing is necessary to determine where investments need to be made for the next crop.

University studies show proper soil fertility levels help maximize water-use efficiency and produce crops with roots that efficiently explore more soil volume for water and nutrients. They also help crops more easily withstand seasonal stresses, according to PPI.

“Balanced soil fertility not only helps growers deal with stressful weather situations, but enables them to get every bushel out of every acre, improve efficiency, and take advantage of the recent ‘bump' in the commodity markets,” says Fixen.

For more information about a balanced fertility program that helps reduce the risk of yield loss in unfavorable growing conditions, check out IMC Global's Web site at www.back-to-basics.net.