As harvest comes to the end, growers are turning their attention to decisions on rotations, seed varieties, and crop establishment.
Some will already be discussing crop protection plans for the season ahead, but often at this stage, planning fertiliser and crop nutrition inputs is an afterthought, explains David Mitchell, Wynnstay Fertiliser Manager.
“Getting crops off to a good start is directly linked with getting the nutrition right, and at approximately 20% of the input costs for a winter wheat crop, I would encourage growers to prioritise their fertiliser inputs at the same time as they do their agronomy.
“Autumn applications of P and K are often overlooked when planning ahead, with many tending to forget that this is an insurance policy for crops.
“P and K applied at drilling will ensure a good root base develops ahead of the winter. Potash plays a vital role in crop structure and development. It improves water retention and assists nutrient transfer.
“A ‘P and K holiday’ has often been viewed as a way of making financial cut backs in light of decreasing farm gate prices, with growers relying on existing resources in the soil. However, this can only be done so many times if the nutrients are not topped up. This can have an adverse effect on yields down the line,” he adds.
“Growers sometimes apply farm yard manure (FYM) or slurry to a field and hope for the best, but ideally this needs to be analysed to ensure that it is beneficial as part of the bigger nutrient picture that impacts soil health. This will ensure that applications are as cost effective as possible.”
In order to balance the crop nutrition inputs on farm, growers should work with a specialist advisor, and follow a few simple steps.
“I always recommend soil sampling each field for its nutritional status and pH levels, while understanding the crop history. It’s important to establish what available resources are on farm in terms of FYM and slurry.
“From this information a bespoke programme is developed, identifying what is required on a field-by-field basis to complement the on-farm existing nutrition ‘status quo’ to ensure crops can meet their potential.
“Soil and crop health, incorporating crop protection, agronomy and crop nutrition are all as important as each other, and should be prioritised as a fully integrated approach to allow crops to deliver maximum yield potential next harvest.”