Should you reduce fertilizer rates next year?

By Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics and Technology 
Seed Consultants, Inc.

As you know, many farms in Ohio were drastically affected by extreme heat and drought during this year. In many cases the yields were less than half as compared to normal.

You applied fertilizers based on normal expected yields. The USDA October estimates for Indiana and Ohio were 100 and 123 bushels of corn per acre respectively. Most growers applied fertilizers based on 180 to 200 bushels expected yields. A corn crop of 180 bushels would have used about 160 pounds of nitrogen, 75 pounds of potash and 140 pounds of phosphate.

Unless you used a cover crop to capture the remnant N, much of it will be lost by leaching or evaporation during the winter and spring months. However, potash and phosphate are more stable. If you harvested only 50% of your expected yields, half of potash and phosphate should still be there. Similarly, lower soybean yields also would have removed lesser amounts of potash and phosphate. 

So, what should you do for the 2013 crops?

My recommendation is that you should do the soil tests before planting. If you had poor crops, based on your soil type and yield goal, you should consider cutting back on the amount of fertilizer you need to apply depending on your yields in 2012. You may want to consider applying different rates of fertilizers if the soils in your fields are variable. Let’s hope 2013 is a “normal” year!

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