5 Common Fertilizer Management Mistakes Growers Make
Author: Mr. Arik Kaparovsky, Head Agronomist at SMART! Fertilizer Management software, and an international expert in farm fertilizer management.
Proper fertilizer management is easier said than done. There are 5 mistakes that growers can easily make that might seriously harm their crops.
We gathered the 5 most common fertilizing management mistakes, that growers around the world make. Learn how to avoid them:
1. Considering only NPK, while overlooking other important nutrients
As Liebig’s Law of Minimum suggests, an imbalance of even one nutrient will limit crop growth, while adequate levels of other nutrients cannot compensate for the deficiency.
Plants require a balanced nutrition which consists of at least 13 essential nutrients in dif¬ferent quantities to grow to their full potential.
Although nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the three major nutrients and are consumed by the plant at larger amounts, a deficiency of one of the secondary elements (sulfur, calcium and magnesium) or even one of the micronutrients (iron, manganese, zinc, boron, copper and molybdenum), might severely limit the yield.
Make sure that your crop has an adequate supply of all the essential nutrients.
2. Not testing the soil, plant and water
Many growers do not test their soil and plants, or do so only occasionally. Not testing the soil, plant and water is not better than driving blind. Without tests you simply cannot know how much fertilizer to apply.
Moreover, if tests are not taken in time, nutritional disorders might be discovered too late, when it is practically impossible to correct them.
The type of tests you should do are determined by your production system.
Test your soil, water and plant regularly, considering your crop, production system and its dynamics. This way you are able to see the big picture and manage your fertilizer programs efficiently, to reach the full yield potential of your crop.
3. Applying too much fertilizer
Misuse of fertilizers is a global problem. A common assumption that lies among growers regarding fertilizer application is “the more, the merrier”.
Well, plants are not bound by that assumption. Over-applying of fertilizer adversely affects the crop, soil and the environment. Irreversible damage can be caused due to salinity build up or due to toxicity of specific elements.
Don’t be tempted to apply more fertilizer if not needed. Many times, deficiency symptoms are confused with symptoms related to excess of certain nutrients.
4. Wrong timing
Using the correct rates of fertilizers is not enough. Failing to apply the right fertilizer rates at the right time is a common mistake leading to loss of yield and to waste.
Plants uptake nutrients in different rates and ratios at the different phonological growth stages. Each nutrient has its unique uptake curve.
If a nutrient is applied too late, after the crop had needed it, the plant’s development will be limited and yield loss will occur.
Applying the right fertilizers too early holds the risk of nutrient loss due to leaching or runoff and high salt level that might damage the crop.
Provide the right nutrients at the right time, according to the requirements of the specific crop at its different growth stages.
5. Using a ‘formula’
Many growers use a general fertilizer recommendation or use the same fertilizer rates time after time. The main reasons for doing so are the fear of making changes and the lack of knowledge or tools that can help make more appropriate and precise decisions.
If a certain ‘formula’ worked once, the natural instinct is to repeat what was proved to be successful.
However, this turns out to be a big mistake, as field conditions are dynamic and what worked for us once will not necessarily work positively for us again.
Don’t stick to one formula or a general recommendation. Base your fertilizer programs on your crop specific nutrient requirements, actual field data and local conditions.
To conclude, proper management of fertilizers is a crucial practice in agriculture. Considering the fact that fertilizers account for up to 70% of the yield, better to address fertilization optimization sooner rather than later.
SMART Fertilizer Management software uses its proprietary algorithm, to integrate your specific field data with its own available extensive data, to create a unique in-house know-how that will allow you to enhance your expertise and let you control over what you grow.