Fertilizer consumption in the U.S. has been on a relatively flat plateau for the past 30 years. Until recently, increases in prices were relatively modest and slow. However, the combination of high crop values, rapid increases in energy costs and booming international fertilizer demand have all boosted fertilizer prices. Higher prices should prompt everyone to review management practices to get the greatest benefit from added fertilizers. Here are some general principles for optimizing fertilizer efficiency; local conditions will vary and may require consultation with a Certified Crop Adviser for your situation.

Soil Sampling: One of the keys to getting the most from applied fertilizer is to know exactly which nutrients are lacking and what amount is needed to bring them to non-limiting levels. Applying only what is needed will save money compared with putting a blanket application across the entire farm. Consider sampling the soil for available nitrogen (N) before fertilizing this year in order to adjust for existing nutrients in the root zone.

Proper Equipment: Check your machinery to make sure that it is properly calibrated. Equipment malfunction or operator error too often results in the incorrect amount of fertilizer being applied. Too much fertilizer wastes money and too little can hurt crop yield and quality.

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