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Nutrient Management in Challenging Times

November 18, 2015 - Peoples Company

The economics of the current corn and soybean production have many farmers searching for areas to save money. A popular area to consider savings is fertilizer. Many farmers built up soil fertility during the high margins of the past few years, and they are planning to draw that down during the lean years. That strategy may have its place. However it’s important that landowners know the consequences of draining the built-up value in a crop nutrient “bank.”

The first challenge relates to whose bank of nutrients it is in the first place. Peoples Company has been proactive with the land we manage by including provisions in our leases requiring fertility tests and documentation to provide owners a history of fertility on their land. This baseline provides a bare minimum of land nutrients to replenish from year to year.

Second, our leases require maintenance-level applications of fertilizer to preserve the historic fertility levels. This means that each year the amount of crop nutrients such as P (phosphorus) and K (potassium), which are used to grow the crop, are replenished to the land.

Some farm operators have placed additional nutrients on these farms, building up fertility over the years on their own because of long-term relationships. In a few cases, we have worked with farmers to build the fertility on nutrient-depleted farms – bringing them up to productive levels. In some of these instances the landowner has contributed to this fertilizer bank.

A final element is the concerns over high levels of nutrients, which may not be used by crops and become mobile through the soil, leading to run-off. Most farmers do a good job managing these nutrients However, do you as a landowner know how to review this information and verify the records? Do you know which nutrients are available over multiple years of crops? Or which needs applied annually? Can you calculate the correct removal rate of nutrients?

Proper nutrients and documentation with soil tests and application records add value to your land, but only when done properly. The Peoples Company Land Management team is happy to assist landowners to develop science-based nutrient strategies that protect the land and may offer farmers opportunities in these tight years.

Published in: Industry Insights