Finding the right fertilizer balance

Here is a three-part way to help control fertilizer costs.

“Soil testing is one of three tools you can use to make your fertilizer dollar stretch further,” said provincial crop specialist Harry Brook. “The other two tools in the box are the Nutrient Use Calculator and the AFFIRM fertilizer program, both available free from AF.”

Good information is key to deciding what to spend on fertilizer, said Brook.

“It’s important to get a good, representative sample to accurately predict the average supply of macronutrients in the soil. This means multiple samples taken from the field in different locations and mixed together.”

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To calculate crop needs, use the Grains, Forage and Straw Nutrient Use Calculator, available at agriculture.alberta.ca.

“You fill in the expected yield and it will give you the macronutrient use in that crop,” said Brook. “If your crop takes out 100 pounds an acre of nitrogen and you’re only putting 60 pounds on, then the rest is coming from the organic matter in the soil and will have to be replaced some time.”

AFFIRM stands for Alberta Farm Fertilizer Information and Recommendation Manager and can be found by searching for ‘fertilizer manager’ at agriculture.alberta.ca.

“It’s a free download where you put in the soil test results, last year’s crop and yield, this year’s crop and expected yield, and it generates a soil fertilizer recommendation,” said Brook. “It also allows you to adjust the moisture conditions, fertilizer budget and minimum return expected per dollar spent on fertilizer, and then generates a nutrient blend that meets those conditions.”

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