Do Your Plants Need Groceries?

  • Apr 23, 2018
I recently heard an agronomist discussing high plant populations with a group of farmers. During the conversation he said that crops need “extra groceries” to match an increase in plant population. It was an interesting analogy and reminder that adequate plant nutrition is essential for meeting a crop’s yield potential.
Fortunately, there is plenty of technology out there to help with nutrient management. Uniform fertilizer applications based on field averages are being replaced with fine-tuned, variable-rate applications that take into account specific field conditions and crop needs.
First, Know What You’ve Got
Soil and tissue sampling have been around for a while, but more farmers are finding value in them as they customize variable-rate fertilizer applications. Soil samples can reveal what nutrients are available in the ground, while in-season tissue testing gives a real-time snapshot of a crop’s nutrient status.
The process of sampling is becoming more streamlined and efficient thanks to technology. The NutriSolutions® app by WinField United is designed to capture the field level details for a tissue sample and transmit that data electronically to the lab. Having a geo-referenced record of where samples were taken in the field can be helpful in establishing trends over consecutive years. Having a record of where a sample was taken is also helpful if questions arise when the results come back.
Use Models to Anticipate Nutrient Deficiencies
The R7® Field Forecasting Tool by WinField United uses field-specific data to model daily crop growth and development based on real-time conditions. Users can input information about their fields and the model will run scenarios to help generate predictive information that can help guide in-season decision-making.
The tool can help predict the nutrient status of crops depending on environmental conditions and production practices, and can also help determine when to apply fertilizers to optimize return on investment potential. For example, you can run a scenario where all nitrogen is applied at planting and compare that to a split-application to evaluate how different management choices impact yield and ROI potential.
Just like us, plants need proper nutrition to reach their full potential. Technology is making it easier to build customized “grocery lists” for crops for greater profitability.