You are on page 1of 28


Building a Foundation for

Better Performance


Supplement to


• Ask for K-Mag® in your next fertilizer blend

• Potassium, magnesium and sulfur — three nutrients in one
• All nutrients are readily available to the crop
• Visit to view the new informational video

©2010. The Mosaic Company. All rights reserved. K-Mag is a registered trademark of The Mosaic Company. KMAG-0060
Nutrition for
Next Generation Seed .......................................... 2

The Basics of Balanced Fertility

N and K Work Together
for Higher Yields ...................................................... 4
Brush up on Soil Fertility ........................... 13

The recent accomplishments of North America’s farmers are truly N, P, K —

noteworthy. Record harvests have produced more food, fuel, feed the Foundation of Production
and fiber than at any time in our history. Optimism in agriculture Rescue Nitrogen Application
abounds — and with good reason. Often Boosts Corn Yields................................... 6
But with success comes the challenge to accomplish more. Even Optimizing Potassium Critical
with bin-busting production records in 2008 and 2009, supply for Top Yields........................................................... 5
merely kept pace with surging demand. Last November, the U.N. Managing P Soil Test Values ............................ 18
Secretary General reported one billion people are hungry, and by
Production Management Profiles
2050, the world will have two billion more mouths to feed — about
nine billion in total — meaning we’ll have to produce 70 percent Prairie Pothole Production
more than we do today just to keep up. Water, land, energy and fer- Denny Friest, Garden City, Iowa ..................... 10
tilizer are finite resources, and agriculture must develop sustainable Little Is “Typical” About
solutions to provide the critically needed increase in food supply. Approach to Crop Production
Meeting this challenge will require new technologies, new crop Fairholme Farms, Lewisville, Ind. ................... 17
management strategies and a commitment to innovation. As the An “Edge” That Leaves
philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, we must not just “go Nothing to Chance
Kriss Schroeder, Colby, Kan. .......................... 20
where the path may lead, [but] go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail.” Planning Pays
It’s with this pioneering spirit and quest for better information that Fertilizer Offers Performance With Return .... 5
The Mosaic Company brings you the “Balanced Crop Nutrition”
Are You Ready for
supplement to Successful Farming. Technology continues to evolve Higher Yields? .................................. Back Cover
and promises higher levels of crop performance, but to maximize
this potential, fertility strategies also must move forward. Fertilizer is Unlocking the Secrets to Higher Yields ...... 8
the foundation on which all high-yield crop systems must be based.
Inside, you’ll find new thinking on building a well-balanced fertility The Need for MicroNutrients
program, highlights from the latest research uncovering the nutrient Magnesium—Often Forgotten,
but Most Essential................................................21
requirements of today’s new hybrids, real experiences of producers
implementing innovative best management practices, and facts on Changes Creating Need for Sulfur ................. 14
the latest advancements in fertilizer. Understanding Zinc Deficiency ...................... 22
Mosaic is committed to helping the world grow the food it needs.
The Production Challenge —
We’re confident you will find information in this supplement to help Meeting Tomorrow’s
you grow more as well. Growing Demand .................................................. 24

To view these articles online or for
more balanced-nutrition information,
Richard N. McLellan
Sr. Vice President, Commercial
The Mosaic Company

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 1


Next-Generation Seed Requires

New Approach to Fertility
The Mosaic Company
Seed industry leaders Dow decrease,” Below points out. “As Innovation in Fertilizer
AgroSciences, Monsanto, Pioneer corn rootworm-resistant hybrids Technology
Hi-Bred and Syngenta have all set become increasingly popular and are The Mosaic Company is working
aggressive goals to increase corn planted every year, it will be important to bring farmers innovative fertilizer
yields. Doubling yields by 2030 is an to take these trends into account as products and information to provide
admirable and daunting goal that plant nutrient management plans and fertilizer better understanding of balanced crop
breeding and biotechnology are sure to recommendations are formulated.” nutrition. To this end, the company
play a huge role in achieving. However, With nearly half of U.S. corn acres surveyed farmers, fertilizer dealers and
in addition to these new technologies, planted to transgenic hybrids costing as university soil scientists across Asia,
new management practices also will be much as $100 to $140 per acre for seed, South America and North America,
required to optimize yields. it is important growers apply the nutrition investigating their needs and wants for
This season, 47 percent of U.S. corn needed to optimize yields and generate fertilizers and plant nutrition services.
acres were planted to stacked-trait, a good return on these genetics. “Overwhelmingly, the results
insect-resistant hybrids, but little is showed farmers wanted to go beyond
known about the effect of technology Table A. existing N, P and K fertilizers to
Increased Yield of Rootworm- products that offer balanced nutri-
on corn nutrient uptake and the exact Resistant Hybrids Removes More
nutrition needed to optimize yields. tion,” says Dean Fairchild, assistant
Soil Nutrients
That’s why researchers at the University vice president of Agronomy for The
DIFFERENCE % Mosaic Company. “Their priorities
of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign are
Yield increase 14 % were products to help manage needs
comparing the nutritional needs of
for nutrients such as sulfur, zinc and
these hybrids to their non-resistant N removal 14 %
also boron,” relates Fairchild.
counterparts. Preliminary research P removal 24 % After intensive research, Mosaic
results show the nutrient uptake of
K removal 19 % scientists and engineers developed
resistant hybrids is significantly greater a patented process to manufacture
than their non-resistant counterparts. S removal 17 %
a fertilizer granule that incorporates
Zn removal 27 % nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc.
Intact roots absorb nutrients Champaign, IL 2008; average of two hybrid pairs The product is MicroEssentials® SZ,™
more efficiently and it is a major breakthrough in
“CRW-resistant hybrids change every- dry-fertilizer technology. The unique
thing,” says Dr. Fred Below, professor chemistry of this phosphorus-based
of Plant Physiology, University of Illinois. product delivers a balanced ratio
“Because rootworm larval feeding is of essential nutrients for better nutri-
suppressed, and therefore the root ent uptake by plants. In addition,
system protected from damage, the by including all nutrients in one
corn plant absorbs nutrients more granule, distribution is uniform, so
efficiently and ultimately realizes a every plant receives the correct
higher yield potential.” amount of each nutrient.
More efficient nutrient uptake The MicroEssentials family of prod-
suggests higher levels of nutrients are ucts delivers sulfur and phosphorus
needed to achieve that added yield in the proper ratio for most crops, so
potential. In the University of Illinois these two nutrients are more available
and easier for plants to use. Nitrogen
trials, CRW-resistant hybrids yielded
is provided in the readily available
205 bu /acre, while the non-resistant
ammonium form to help get young
hybrids yielded 179 bu /acre, a
plants off to an early start. Finally,
14 percent difference.
MicroEssentials includes sulfur in both
“Results of our initial trials show
the elemental and sulfate forms for
that the per-acre removal rates of season-long availability.
nutrients [N, P, K, S, Zn] are from 14 to Studies show MicroEssentials
27 percent greater for hybrids with the fertilizer enhances plant uptake of
rootworm-resistant gene,” adds Below. phosphorus up to 30 percent and
“In fact, both the yield and the concen- improves zinc uptake by up to
tration of nutrients in the grain were 45 percent as compared to a typical
higher for the transgenic hybrids.” blend. These improvements in nutrient
“As we look at these results, we see utilization mean a better return on the
very large increases of zinc (Zn) and P investment in fertilizer. For more de-
removal, in particular, which means soil tails, visit
test levels of these nutrients may rapidly

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 3


Nitrogen and Potassium Work

Together for Higher Yields
Leikam AgroMax

By understanding how nutrients

Table B.
work together, farmers can optimize
Higher Nutrient Levels Required for Plant Population Response
production and investment in fertilizer Kansas State University
while minimizing the opportunity for CORN YIELDS BU/ACRE
excess nutrients to negatively impact TRADITIONAL1 ENHANCED2 FERTILITY
nitrogen (N) are two vital nutrients that 28,000 202 225 23
create greater benefits working together
than alone. 42,000 196 262 66
Research studies from the University
Population Response –6 37
of Illinois illustrate how potassium
1 230 lbs N /acre, 30 lbs P2O5 /acre P and K Soil Tests = High
nutrition and fertilizer N interact to 2 230 lbs N /acre, 100 lbs P2O5 /acre, 80 lbs K2O /acre and 40 lbs S /acre
markedly increase yields, response to
Source: Kansas State University
fertilizer N and N use efficiency (Figure
1). It is important to keep in mind that
these same types of P and K interac- What do these interactions yields (Table B). With traditional
tions will also occur with other nutrients mean for the future? university nutrient recommendations,
and non-nutrient crop inputs. With technology and production the higher plant populations yielded
Illinois changes, U.S. corn yields have slightly less than the traditional, lower
200 increased from about 100 bu /acre in populations. However, when the fertility
1985 to approximately 160 bu /acre program included additional P, K and
Corn Grain Yield (bu/acre)

in 2009. Many farmers are growing sulfur (S), the higher plant population
corn yielding more than 200 bu /acre. yielded 37 bu /acre more than the tradi-
But can traditional nutrient recom- tional, lower plant population. Likewise,
100 corn response to the enhanced fertility
mendations meet the demands of
tomorrow’s high corn yields? Evidence program was only 23 bu /acre at the
50 0 lb K 20/acre
suggests the levels of inputs and lower plant population, but swelled to
96 lbs K 20/acre 66 bu /acre at the higher population!
management necessary for corn yields
144 lbs K 20/acre Balanced and fully adequate fertility
0 in the 150 bu /acre range may not be
0 80 120 180 240
enough for modern yield levels of programs will be fundamental com-
Application Rate (lbs N/acre) ponents of optimizing return from
250+ bu /acre.
Figure 1. Potassium improves yield response to A Kansas study combined higher improved genetics and new tech-
N fertilizer and N efficiency. nologies/practices in the future while
University of Illinois plant populations and an enhanced fer-
tility program to maximize irrigated-corn protecting the environment.
Adapted from Better Crops, Vol. 82 (1998, No. 3)

4 This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company.

Optimizing Potassium Critical for Top Yields
Soil test trends coupled with environ- more important to optimize yields. 50 days. Compaction and wet soils
mental factors indicate applying “Cool, wet years set up agronomic also may limit K uptake shortly before
potassium (K) fertilizer may be more challenges for crops that exacerbate pollination when corn plants remove
important than ever for optimum crop the impact of limited soil nutrients,” more than 15 pounds of K2O per acre
yields. According to studies from the says Steve Phillips, Southeast U.S. per day.
International Plant Nutrition Institute region director with IPNI, a not-for- “Over time, continued removal of K
(IPNI), soil test K levels continue to de- profit, science-based organization without annual fertilizer application will
crease, and as a result, the percentage with a focus on agronomic education lower soil test levels, and yield loss will
of soils across North America in nega- and research support. “Season-long occur because K removal is a direct
tive balance for K continues to rise. excess soil moisture and resulting contributor to crop yield,” says Phillips.
“Research at Ohio State shows compaction from planting, spraying Visit for
that yields increased as soil test K and harvest cause poor soil aeration. more information about the importance
increased above critical soil levels,” “Oxygen is required for root nutri- of K in a balanced fertility program.
explains Dan Froehlich, agronomist ent uptake; damp, compacted soils
with The Mosaic Company. “A standard are lower in soil oxygen, thus limiting
benchmark is that potassium uptake for plants’ ability to uptake K. Continued 250
a 180-bushel corn yield is 240 pounds wet conditions make the situation more

Corn Grain Yield (bu/acre)

of potassium per acre. The critical level complex,” Phillips explains. 200
of potassium in the soil for optimum Insufficient K may lead to reduced
performance is approximately 165 ppm. nitrogen uptake, less developed roots, 150
“The Ohio State results show yields lower protein content, greater suscep-
increased as K increased to 200 ppm tibility to water loss and wilting, as well 100
and 278 ppm. Nitrogen use also was as weaker stalks that are more prone 160 ppm K Soil Test
enhanced as soil K levels increased,” to lodging. 50
200 ppm K Soil Test
Froehlich adds. Prolonged cool temperatures plus 278 ppm K Soil Test
Agronomic and environmental condi- wet, compacted soils can cause 0
0 80 160 240 320
tions also play a role in the availability irreparable damage to yield potential
Application Rate (lbs N/acre)
of nutrients for plant uptake. These since more than 50 percent of the total
factors make supplemental K even K is taken up by corn plants in the first Figure 2.

Fertilizer Offers Performance That Pays

Few investments offer this level of return
Survival in today’s competitive Table C.
economic environment depends FERTILIZER NEW BUSHELS DOLLAR
upon each investment ultimately ACRE YIELD COST PRICES PAY FOR PER DOLLAR
providing a positive return. In corn YEAR ($ /acre) (bu /acre) ($ /bu) ($ /bu) FERTILIZER SPENT

production, fertility is responsible 2008 $140.27 180 0.78 3.82 36.7 $1.96
for about 40 percent* of the crop’s 2009 $145.63 180 0.81 4.09 35.6 $2.02
yield—and fertilizer is proven to
2010 (estimated) $ 96.94 180 0.54 4.29 22.6 $3.19
provide a positive return on invest-
2011 (projected) $113.77 180 0.63 4.04 28.2 $2.56
ment (ROI). Use the formulas below
As of Oct. 1, 2010
the table to calculate the return from
fertilizing your own corn crop. Corn—180 bu /acre corn following soybeans; N-P-K = 140–70–55
Fertilizer cost assumptions—N = $0.39 /lb, P2O5 = $0.68 /lb, K 2O = $0.40 /lb
Fertilizer cost per bushel = fertilizer cost /yield
Bushels needed to pay for investment in fertilizer = fertilizer cost per acre/new crop price per bushel
For updated info, visit *ROI assumes 40 percent of yield comes from fertilizer (based on university studies) Dollar return per dollar invested = (0.40 x yield x new crop price)/cost of fertilizer

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 5


Rescue Nitrogen Application

Often Boosts Corn Yields
C r o p s a n d S o i l s E d i t o r, S u c c e s s f u l F a r m i n g

In really wet years, a lot of properties as well as rainfall,” says Scharf cites the experience of Wayne
preplant nitrogen is lost. Scharf. “Among preplant applica- Flanary, a University of Missouri agron-
Wet weather causes nitrogen losses tion strategies, spring application of omy specialist in northwest Missouri.
somewhere virtually every year. In 2008 anhydrous ammonia has the lowest risk Flanary applied 180 pounds of N as
and 2009, very wet weather caused of nitrogen loss. But any nitrogen-man- anhydrous ammonia in late-November
major nitrogen losses in a huge chunk agement strategy can be overwhelmed 2008. Nevertheless, corn in a low area
of the Corn Belt. by weather.” appeared to lack N early in the 2009
“My rule of thumb is that more than Scharf developed a Nitrogen growing season. Where Flanary applied
16 inches of rain from April through Loss Scoresheet to help growers an additional 60 pounds of N as dry
June – or more than a foot in May and identify fields apt to respond to rescue urea in June, the corn yielded 200 bu /
June – will lead to nitrogen deficiency nitrogen based on nitrogen source, acre. Where he applied an additional
problems in a substantial number of date applied, soil type and degree of
cornfields,” says University of Missouri wetness. It’s online at http://ppp.mis-
agronomist Peter Scharf.
According to Scharf, last year nearly v17n10/ipmltr9.htm.
all of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Farmers who went through back-to-
and Tennessee, plus most of Illinois, back wet years have been concerned
southern Indiana, and eastern Kansas that the wet fall and winter of 2009-10
all had over 16 inches of rain from April was setting the stage for another year
through June. In 2008, nearly all of Iowa of nitrogen (N) losses and yield losses.
and Missouri, plus southern Illinois, “My firm belief after the last two years
southern Indiana, southern Wisconsin, is that every producer and every retail
eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, and organization need to have a plan for Ryan Britt used a high-clearance
southeastern Minnesota received over making rescue N applications in place applicator to apply rescue nitrogen
16 inches of rain during those three before the season starts,” says Scharf. for neighbors last year.
crucial months. “Rescue applications of nitrogen fertil-
“The level of risk depends on nitro- izer can be highly profitable when earlier
gen fertilizer management and soil nitrogen applications have been lost
due to wet weather.”

Reprinted from the May – June 2010 issue of Successful Farming magazine. © 2010 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.
120 pounds of N as urea, the corn
yielded 220. Where he didn’t apply any Rescue N Application Chart
rescue N, it yielded 170 bu /acre.
Aerial photographs are Scharf’s first Between Rows Urea
choice for diagnosing N deficiency. “You Ammonium Nitrate, 32% UAN,
can get through all your acres much or Urea + NBPT (Agrotain)
more quickly and thoroughly based on
aerial photos than by ground-based
inspection,” he says. Urea or Urea + NBPT
Broadcast (Agrotain)
“At fairly early stages (knee high),
aerial photos can help you identify likely
problem areas but should be ground- Ammonium
truthed. At later stages (waist high or
taller), aerial photos provide reliable
indicators of which areas are experi-
encing N stress and how severe it is,” 32% UAN
Scharf says.
“My research suggests that aerial
photographs can be translated into
yield loss maps that make it easier
to decide how much can be spent
1 ft. 2 ft. 3 ft. 4 ft.
to correct the problem,” says Scharf.
“Aerial photographs can also be trans- Figure 3. University of Missouri research agronomist Kelly Nelson developed this chart to show which
sources of nitrogen can be used at different growth stages of corn.
lated into variable-rate N maps that can
be plugged into a variable-rate appli-
cator. Nitrogen loss is nearly always lost. This makes correct diagnosis more University of Missouri research agrono-
patchy, resulting in some areas that difficult. Sometimes this yellow corn will mist Kelly Nelson developed the Rescue
need rescue nitrogen and other areas green up when the soil dries out, and N Application Chart (shown above) based
that don’t.” no additional N is needed. By the time on research by several agronomists.
In the absence of aerial images, you you’ve been able to walk through the Scharf says some people are
can tell a lot about corn’s N situation field for a week, the corn should look skeptical about recovering yield once
simply by inspecting your fields. substantially better if the N is still in the corn has been substantially stressed
“The appearance of the corn crop soil. If not, a rescue N application is by lack of N.
is an excellent diagnostic tool,” says called for.” “My experience and research show
Scharf. “Corn that is light green or Several different sources of N can that corn has great capacity to use
yellow-green is N-deficient nearly 100% be used for rescue applications. Corn rescue N to produce additional yield
of the time in Missouri. However, corn height and application method must be until at least silking,” Nelson says.
growing in waterlogged soil will be considered when determining which N “Research by others suggests that
N-deficient even if the N has not been source to use. this capacity extends at least a week
and probably usually two weeks past
High-clearance applicators, which are
becoming increasingly common, enable
growers to dribble or inject liquid N
between the rows of tall corn.
Ryan Britt of Clifton Hills in north-
central Missouri applied rescue N for
several neighbors last year with the
Hagie applicator shown on the opening
page. Britt farms with his father, Randy,
and grandfather, Wayne.
Nitrogen deficiency is evident on The corn on the left received 40
pounds of rescue nitrogen (32%) Concerned about the risk of losing
lower leaves first. Yellowing begins
while the row on the right did not. preplant N, they switched to split appli-
at the tip of the leaf and proceeds
The extra N was applied 17 days cations of N in 2008. Last year, they
down the midrib. before this photo was taken on applied 60 pounds of N preplant then
July 16, 2005. The preplant rate sidedressed in June using N sensors to
was 120 pounds of NH3.
adjust the rate on-the-go.

Reprinted from the May – June 2010 issue of Successful Farming magazine. © 2010 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

Unlocking the Secrets

to Higher Yields
A N I N T E R V I E W W I T H F R E D B E L O W, P h . D.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Below’s Five Management Factors for a High-Yield Corn System
Fertility – 100 lbs of P2O5 as MicroEssentials® SZ™ even though the soil test
1 suggested no additional P was necessary.

2 Nitrogen – 100 lbs of extra N as a controlled-release source for a total of

280 lbs of nitrogen

3 Hybrid Selection – Triple-stack hybrid, locally adapted for specific


4 Population – 45,000 plants/acre planted in 7.5-inch diamond-patterned twin rows

5 Fungicide – Single application of a well-timed fungicide

Photo courtesy of Cargill.

World demand for food, feed, fiber and these tools. In that effort, our research Table E.
fuel is increasing. Dr. Fred Below and is contrasting standard management Seven Wonders
researchers at the University of Illinois— practices and planting populations with of the Corn Yield World
Urbana-Champaign are assessing new a high-yield management approach FACTOR BU/ACRE IMPACT
technologies and designing manage- that pushes CRW-resistant hybrids Weather 70+
ment practices to unlock the secret to to 45,000 plants per acre, planted in Nitrogen 70
higher yields. Here he shares details of 7½-inch twin rows on a 30-inch center. Hybrid Selection 50
this effort. It also incorporates 100 pounds of extra Previous Crop 25
You have spent your entire career sidedress N as a controlled-release Plant Population 20
looking at corn physiology and factors source as well as 100 pounds of P2O5 Tillage 15
that impact yield. What are you focus- as MicroEssentials,® even though the Growth Regulators 10
ing on in your current research? There soil test suggested no additional P Total = 260 bu/A*
are many new technologies available to was necessary. *Represents the maximum yield level possible
when each of these factors is optimized using
growers that are changing the face of As part of your high-management standard crop management systems today and
crop production and have the potential system, you have ranked seven factors typical planting rates of 30,000 to 36,000 plants
per acre.
to drive higher crop yields. For example, that impact corn yield, and you refer
today’s genetics are more tolerant of to them as the “Seven Wonders.”
the stresses of higher plant populations. Why are they important to success in levels based on higher yield goals and soil
Corn rootworm (CRW) protection now high-yield management systems? The test values, plus effective weed control.
gives us a larger, more intact root system Seven Wonders are weather, nitrogen, Your research shows that nitrogen
so the corn plant can absorb nutrients hybrid selection, previous crop, tillage, management has the second-biggest
more efficiently. Fungicides protect plant population and a “catchall” I call impact on yield, right behind weather,
plants from yield-robbing diseases to growth regulators that is represented by but what does your current research
maintain plant health longer. the plant-health or performance aspect suggest about the importance of man-
In our research, we’ve seen beneficial of fungicides. aging for P and K levels? There is no
synergies from combining these manage- However, before we can uncover the doubt in my mind that to achieve high
ment tools. To move to the 300-bushel full potential of the Seven Wonders, there yields, you have to meet base fertil-
level and beyond, we have to identify are base prerequisites that must be ity levels in order to get the rest of the
the most efficient ways of combining met. They are proper drainage, P and K Seven Wonders to reach their greatest
potential. Nitrogen, the Second Wonder,
Table D.
is a major driver in corn yields, but we
Interaction of Technologies/Practices PROGRAM* PROGRAM** are seeing that a balanced nutrition
on Corn Yield
University of Illinois and The Mosaic Company 208 BU /ACRE 274 BU /ACRE approach is critical to helping nitrogen
TECHNOLOGY/PRACTICE YIELD INCREASE ATTRIBUTED TO achieve its full value, particularly toward
lot more cases impacted by the classic
Additional P, S, Zn (MicroEssentials® SZ™) 7 18
law of the minimum. If the limiting nutri-
Additional sidedress N 16 24 ent is P, K, S or Zn, that one deficiency
Higher plant population –15 14 can prevent the corn from getting the
Fungicide application –4 12 full value of nitrogen applied. This is why
balanced fertility is an important man-
Genetics – CRW-resistant (triple-stack) 8 27
agement component of the high-yield
* Traditional program — Typical university recommendations without any enhanced inputs
** Enhanced program — Typical university recommendations plus all enhanced inputs system I am evaluating.

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 9


ie Pothole Poses Production Challenges

Denny Friest
Garden City, Iowa
Participant, Iowa Soybean Association
On-Farm Network
• Corn
• Soybeans
• Swine farrow-to-finish

While most farmers are anxiously awaiting mulch-till compared to moldboard plowing possibility our soils also need supple-
long-promised drought-tolerant corn hybrids, and no-till. mental sulfur, we’ve been evaluating
Denny Friest would welcome moisture- As one of the original On-Farm Network MicroEssentials® SZ.™ We’ve seen good
tolerant hybrids on his north-central Iowa participants, he fully utilizes this manage- yield response in strip trials.” In his
farm. Too much moisture is often the ment tool to evaluate the yield benefit of new 2009 comparison, the corn receiving
biggest challenge of farming the dense, products and crop production practices. MicroEssentials produced 10.9 bu /acre
poorly drained Clarion-Nicolette-Webster “There are certain requirements partici- more than the untreated check and
soils, which are typical of North America’s pants must meet, but we can test anything 6.8 bu /acre more than that which
vast Prairie Pothole region. we’d like as long as there are three received MAP.
“It’s hard to complain about too much replicated strips across the field,” Friest Nitrogen management also is a signifi-
moisture, but Mother Nature almost always explains. “Through the years, I’ve looked at cant challenge, according to Friest. “We
gives us more than what we’d like to have,” hog manure, fungicides, soil insecticides, monitor our N use very carefully. We’ve
relates Friest. “Our soil here is heavy, dense tillage, different plant populations and seen evidence of significant leaching of N
and prone to ponding. I lose far more yield various fertilizers. With all the new traits from fall-applied manure, so management
to too much moisture than to not enough. available in seed, we are always looking at of this resource must be done carefully.”
Moisture creates issues from planting new hybrids to see what will work best.” He continues, “We’re not only looking for
through the production season.” He has economic benefit to our fertility practices,
installed 4-inch tile every 70 feet in several but also environmental benefits. We need
fields. Though tiling is not a total solution to be good environmental stewards, and
Nutrient management is one of Friest’s
to improving crop performance, it has if we can maintain productivity with less
greatest challenges.
decreased yield variability across fields. nitrogen, everyone wins.”
“We’ve been working very hard on
Encouraged by a program from ISA to
TILLAGE IS A “MUST DO” nutrient management over the last six
cut N use, Friest has decreased N applica-
Friest also has learned getting the crop off or seven years, and something is always
tion by 25 to 30 percent, or 50 lbs /acre,
to a good start requires managing fall crop changing. It is frustrating,” he says.
and now applies around 150 pounds when
residue using a disk ripper to help soils For example, Friest has seen a
targeting 200-bushel yields on corn
warm up and dry out the following spring. significant drop in his normally high P soil
following corn. He prefers to apply N in
The goal of this mulch-till approach is to test levels, which he attributes to nutrient
the spring to reduce the opportunity of
open up the soil but leave 70 percent of the draw-down from 200 bu /acre corn yields.
leaching and has seen yield advantages
corn residue on the soil surface. His planter He also has found the use of phytase in
to sidedressing in June with 50 lbs /acre.
is equipped with trash whippers to manage swine feeds has lowered P available from
Friest fully expects nutrient manage-
the remaining residue and further warm manure, which is a source of N, P and K
ment to remain high on his list of factors
the seedbed. A 20/20 AirForce™ system on for a portion of his acres.
to evaluate and closely control.
the planter is used to optimize seed-to-soil He explains, “We know hog manure
“We have a lot of good tools in our
contact for better germination. now will not provide enough P to meet crop
arsenal. We just need to continue working
Mulch tillage has proved particularly removal rates of P for both corn and the
to see what fits best,” he concludes.
essential to maintain yields in corn following soybean crop, so fields receiving
following corn. Replicated strip trials hog manure also receive supplemental P to 20/20 AirForce is a trademark of Precision
Planting, Inc.
conducted through Friest’s participation provide a base of 120 lbs /acre for our 200
in the Iowa Soybean Association’s On-Farm bu /acre yield goal.”
Network verified the advantages of Friest adds, “To meet P needs and the
10 This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company.

Let be Your Guide

Legendary billionaire Warren Buffett has • The roles of other essential nutrients Regional agronomic updates. Click
inspired legions of followers worldwide such as sulfur, magnesium and zinc on your region of the interactive map
to heed his homespun moneymaking in increasing crop yield and quality to receive timely updates on local crop,
advice: Invest in what you know. • Why new insect-resistant, multi- soil and weather conditions, along with
Over a lifetime of investments, trait hybrids may benefit from a new nutrient management tips, from the
including the 40-acre farm he purchased approach to fertility expert staff at the IPNI.
in the 10th grade, Buffet demonstrated • How to identify yield-robbing nutrient Crop nutrient deficiency photo library.
that when investors have an intimate deficiencies through visual analysis Nutrient deficiencies in crops reduce
knowledge about a topic, they naturally • How to identify “hidden deficiencies” yields, grain/forage quality and profits to
spot more opportunities. The same not visible to the eye the farmer. Browse this image gallery for
is true for farmers who gain deeper help to identify various nutrient deficiency
knowledge of crop inputs, like fertilizer. symptoms for 19 different crops.
To help farmers learn about crop After you visit
nutrition to gain confidence in their Order or bookmark to brush up on soil fertility basics, contact
fertilizer decisions, The Mosaic these valuable tools your local fertilizer dealer for help to
Company developed the free educa- and online resources: formulate the balanced soil fertility
tional soil fertility resources found at program needed to optimize your crop At this “Efficient Fertilizer Use” manual. This production investment. The more you
educational website, farmers can learn: comprehensive guide to proper fertilizer know about nutrient needs of your
• When and why N-P-K applications uses, soil pH, soil sampling and much crops, and the needs of your soil, the
alone are not always enough to more is FREE! Order the CD-ROM, or greater your opportunities to increase
optimize yields access the chapters online. yields and profits.

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 11

Crop Yield (A) N P205 K20 Mg S
Alfalfa* 8 ton 408 96 392 43 43
10 ton 510 120 490 54 54
Barley 120 bu. 166 67 182 17 23
Canola 60 bu. 180 90 150 37 30
Corn 150 bu. 135 57 41 14 12
Stalks 68 24 165 21 11
Total 203 81 206 35 23
200 bu. 180 76 54 18 16
Stalks 90 32 220 46 14
Total 270 108 274 64 30
250 bu. 225 95 68 23 20
Stalks 112 40 275 58 18
Total 337 135 343 81 38
Corn Silage 30 ton 291 93 219 60 33
Cotton (lint /seed) 1,500 lbs. 100 44 59 20 17
Stalks 140 28 151 12 19
Total 240 72 210 32 36
Fescue 3.5 ton 130 42 189 13 20
Oats 100 bu. 73 27 18 4 7
Straw 29 15 89 10 10
Total 102 42 107 14 17
Potatoes/ Tubers 500 cwt. 160 60 275 15 15
Plants 100 25 150 20 10
Total 260 85 425 35 25
Rice 7,000 lb. 112 60 168 14 12
Ryegrass 5 ton 215 86 215 40 60
Sorghum (grain) 175 bu. 116 68 47 11 11
Soybeans* (grain) 70 bu. 266 59 91 15 13
Stover 77 17 70 15 12
Total 343 76 161 30 25
Sunflower 1.5 ton 151 45 110 21 18
Wheat 80-bu. Grain 120 48 27 12 8
Straw 56 13 96 8 11
Total 176 61 123 20 19
* Legumes derive most of the N from symbiotic N fixation.
Source: IPNI and Mosaic

Visit for information on additional crops.

©2010. The Mosaic Company. All rights reserved. MicroEssentials is a registered trademark of The Mosaic Company. MES-0168
The Direction of Soil Fertility
in the Corn Belt
B Y PA U L E . F I X E N , P h . D .
International Plant Nutrition Institute

The status of soil fertility levels is an are indeed falling in most of the Corn Belt. soil testing to determine fertility needs
indicator of the sustainability of farming. The two maps show median soil of specific fields and guide fertilizer
Every five years, the staff of IPNI P and K levels (50 percent of samples and manure application needed for
and cooperating private and public are above and below these levels) for sustainable crop yields.
laboratories across the United States the Corn Belt states and Ontario. The
Figure 4.
and Canada summarize soil test levels lower numbers in the maps are the
for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) changes from 2005. 2010 median soil levels and
as well as pH to get an inventory of soil Phosphorus declined in all areas, with change from 2005
fertility levels across North America. Wisconsin and the Northeast showing PHOSPHORUS LEVELS*
With decreased fertilizer use in the largest drops. Soil P levels in the
2009 and the long-term trend of crops Western states were lower initially, so
removing soil nutrients faster than the 3 or 4 ppm reductions seen from 17 ON
they’re being replenished, many are the summary are important to note. SD 13 -1 WI 37
23 MI
-1 38 -10
interested in the 2010 summary. Preliminary data indicates the P level -16
IA 21 -11
decline for Illinois is large. NE 18 -4
Tests confirm that soil test -4 IL IN OH 23
Soil K relative changes were smaller 24 -2
levels for P and K are falling in comparison and less consistent. MO -12 -5
KS 17 15 17
Nine of the 13 areas showed reduc- -4 -3
in most of the Corn Belt. KY -1
tions or virtually no change, and four
First, the good news from this showed small increases. All three of POTASSIUM LEVELS**
summary process is that there has the western-most states showed large
been a substantial increase in use of drops in soil K because of highly nega- MN
soil testing since 2005; soil testing has tive nutrient balances, but their median 160 ON
SD 245 +4 WI 99
grown at an average of about 300,000 levels are still well above critical levels. 133 MI
-23 131 -35
samples per year over the last five years. The northeast states and Ontario also +8
IA 161 -18
NE 320 -11
We estimate that about 5.5 million saw large reductions in soil K.
-44 IL IN OH
samples were collected in North The takeaway is that crops have been 181 130 145
MO -14 -23
America for the 2010 crop compared removing more P and K from many of KS 272 +3
149 131
to about four million for the 2005 crop. the soils of the Corn Belt than those -22 -1 KY +3
This is one of the highest growth rates in soils have been receiving as fertilizer *Median Bray P1 equivalent, ppm
Soil samples, millions: 2005=2.0; 2010=3.0
soil testing ever in North America. or manure, and the result is declining
**Median ammonium acetate K equivalent, ppm
Unfortunately, the results of these tests soil fertility. The wide range of soil test Soil samples, millions: 2005=2.0; 2010=2.8
confirm that soil test levels for P and K results reinforces the importance of

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 13


Changes Creating Need for Sulfur

The Mosaic Company

The first occurrences of sulfur (S) chlorophyll production, which makes - Alfalfa removes approximately
deficiency in corn were reported in the the younger leaves of the plant appear 6 pounds S per acre per ton pro-
1960s. At the time, sulfur deficiency yellow, a symptom sometimes confused duced. A 40 bu /acre wheat yield will
was virtually unheard of. Textbooks with N deficiency. remove about 5 pounds S per acre.
devoted chapters to nitrogen (N), phos- • Sulfur is mobile in the soil.
phorus (P) and potassium (K) and their Putting S out of balance Excessive rainfall or irrigation water
roles in crop production. Sulfur received What has changed to bring about a can move SO4-S through the soil,
only short paragraphs. need for supplemental sulfur in crop particularly when soils are sandy.
production? Assessing the need for sulfur
To sustain optimum crop • Decreased S deposition from rain/
As more signs of sulfur deficiency are
yields, the S balance in soils air (Figure 5). Since the 1970 Clean
seen in crops, a growing number of
Air Act, emissions of sulfur dioxide
will need to be maintained have decreased dramatically, resulting
producers will wonder if they need to
supplement S. To identify where supple-
through supplemental S. in reduced deposition from rain/air.
mental S will be beneficial, it’s important
• Changing fertilization practices.
to understand sulfur’s role as a plant
Today, the situation is quite different. A switch away from ammonium sul-
Since the late 1980s, university agrono- fate as a source of N and decreased
Identifying areas with S deficiency
mists from New York to Kansas, use of single superphosphate, which
often begins with organic matter
Michigan to Alabama, have been contained some S, means we’re
content of the soil. Fields with low
observing sulfur deficiency in crops and adding less S to soils. Manure use
organic matter and long histories of
advising growers on the importance of also has changed.
forage/silage production or continuous
supplemental sulfur. With this change, • Increased crop removal.
corn systems with no manure additions
S has become the fourth “essential” An increase in both grain and forage
would be more likely to exhibit S defi-
nutrient. It is a component of numer- yields results in more rapid depletion
ciency. Some nutrient deficiencies can
ous protein enzymes that regulate of S from soils.
be confirmed with a soil test, but with S
photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation. - A 180 bu /acre corn crop removes
as with N, it is difficult to get a reliable
In fact, when S is limiting, there is less about 14 pounds S per acre.
assessment of available S from soil
Table F.
testing because of sulfur’s mobility in
the soil and the varying rates of S min- Sulfur content of some common fertilizers
eralization from crop residues. Tissue MATERIAL NAME S CONTENT (%)

testing is considered more reliable, and Ammonium sulfate (21–0–0–24) 24

comparing samples in the same field/ Ammonium thiosulfate (12–0–0–26) 26
hybrid between poor and good areas K-Mag® (0–0–21.5) 22
may be the best strategy.
MicroEssentials® S15™ (13–33–0–15S) 15 (7.5 sulfate; 7.5 elemental)
Visual symptoms also are an indica-
tor, and plants with severe deficiencies MicroEssentials SZ™ (12–40–0–10S-1Zn) 10 (5 sulfate, 5 elemental)

have yellow or white streaks along the MicroEssentials S10 (12–40–0–10S) 10 (5 sulfate, 5 elemental)
leaf veins that may stretch the full length Potassium sulfate (0–0–50) 18
of the newer, upper leaves. Probably
the most reliable way to know if a
sulfur application will result in a positive
response is to apply some in strips to see Sulfur deposited by precipitation
if a difference in yield can be measured.
in 1986 compared to 2008
Choosing a source of 1986
supplemental sulfur
Several products are available for cor-
recting or preventing a sulfur deficiency.
When choosing a product, remember
that sulfur forms vary in their availability
for plant growth. Plants can readily take
up sulfate (SO4), so this form is preferred
for corn and small-grain production as it is
immediately available to developing roots,
helping plants get off to a faster start.
Elemental sulfur (S) must be oxidized
into SO4 by soil bacteria before plants
can take it up. This takes time and is
slowed by cool spring temperatures.
Elemental sulfur is more of a slow-
release fertilizer and can be used in a
soil maintenance program or by plants 2008
later in the season. Choosing a fertilizer
source containing elemental sulfur also
helps ensure S is available to plants all
season long because it is not as mobile
as sulfate, which can move out of the
root zone when precipitation is high.

Sources of sulfur for plants

There are several fertilizers available
to supply S when it is needed. The
MicroEssentials® family of products
provides season-long availability of S by
providing both the elemental and sulfate
forms. K-Mag® fertilizer is virtually 100
National Atmospheric Deposition
percent water soluble and provides K, Program/National Trends Network
Mg and S that are immediately available
to plants. Your local agronomist, crop Figure 5. When comparing these maps, it is apparent the 3 –12 pounds per acre of S deposited by
consultant or fertilizer dealer can help precipitation in 2008 is not enough to replenish the amount of S removed by crops.
you assess the right product to optimize
yields in your crop production program.

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 15



Science is a world of
pioneers. Especially the
science of soil. With
more than 40% of crop
yields dependent on
>L»YLÄUKPUNV\YZPU[OLZVPS the soil’s fertility, we’re
developing the balanced
fertility strategies to drive
yields even higher. This
initiative has made us a
leader in conservation,
environmental steward-
ship and sustainability.
And kept us in tireless
pursuit of the next great
answer to help the world
grow the food it needs.


©2010. The Mosaic Company. All rights reserved. Mosaic is a registered trademark of The Mosaic Company. MOSC-0072

Little Is
s “Typical” About
Abou Approach
oach to Crop Production

Kim Drackett
Randy Bales
Lewisville, Indiana
Fairholme Farms Inc.
• Continuous no-till
• Corn, soybeans
• Swine farrow-to-finish

Both Kim Drackett and Randy Bales we have the data and have used this it has been wet in the month of June,
describe 1,850-acre Fairholme Farms as approach for so many years, I believe we’ve making it hard to get sidedressing done,”
“a typical eastern Corn Belt operation,” but dramatically reduced the variability in our soil says Bales, who oversees crop planning
their management approach is, and long test levels across each field, and as a result, and operations. “If we hadn’t been able
has been, anything but typical. have reduced the probability that P, K or pH to apply N prior to planting, we probably
For example, the operation began will be the limiting factors to grain yield. would have been dripping liquid N between
2.5-acre grid sampling in the 1950s. At the “For optimum productivity, our goal is to the rows with highboys.” Because the
time, they variable-rate-applied fertilizer by maintain phosphorus at 25 ppm and potas- farm has the equipment and labor to apply
simply driving a gear slower with the tractor sium at 150 to 200 ppm, depending on anhydrous, Bales estimates the ability to
and fertilizer spreader in areas that needed the cation exchange capacity (CEC). When complete timely application plus the savings
more nutrients. soil test data indicates nutrient levels need on application cost may have paid for their
Drackett then worked with other farmers to be brought up, we work on a four-year investment in the RTK-guidance technology.
to form a local Maximum Economic Yield build program for P, K and lime,” Drackett
group, and together the group enlisted adds. “Our typical process is to apply
a local retailer to invest in variable-rate these nutrients at a build rate, plus one
Since 1981, Fairholme Farms has worked
application equipment. In 1992, the farm’s year’s removal for both corn and soybeans.
with its crop consultants, Purdue University
first yield data was collected. In 1997, after Application is done every other year, prior
and the University of Illinois, to complete
working with a crop consultant and Purdue to corn.” After four years, if things appear
numerous on-farm trials. This has helped
University to complete a statistical evalua- to be going well, they switch to a mainte-
them achieve a five-year average yield
tion of what size soil test grid captured the nance program, occasionally pulling a few
of 165 bu /acre on corn and 59 bu /ac on
variability in their soils, they switched to soil samples to confirm their beliefs.
soybeans. While Drackett and Bales are
sampling on a 1-acre grid.
INVESTING RESOURCES WISELY always game to try something new, they
VARIABLE-RATE PROGRAM BASED PAYS OFF like to have proof it works.
ON CALCULATED SOIL TEST Drackett and Bales also plant on a With their experience in crop production
Today, the operation soil-samples on variable-rate basis, with plant population and from what they’ve seen through previ-
a 1-acre grid every six to eight years. ranging from 26,000 to 35,000 plants ous on-farm research, the duo is convinced
Fairholme Farms’ zone management– per acre. This allows these farmers to reaching the industry’s 300-bushel yield
based variable-rate crop nutrition program invest resources where they will produce goal will require everything coming together.
is built using a beginning soil test and the most bushels. Nitrogen (N) for corn “We are going to have to get better at
a soil test value calculated between soil on 150 high-management acres near the everything,” says Drackett. “We’ll need
tests by combining the base soil test with swine operation is supplied using irriga- more plants per acre, better soil tilth, more
nutrient applications and crop removal tion water from the two-stage lagoon balanced nutrition, and better hybrids and
rates from yield data. While sampling on a system. And while all other acres typically varieties. On the nutrient side, we will need
1-acre grid is costly, the expense is spread receive anhydrous ammonia as a sidedress to use fertilizer formulations as well as
over more years, and the resulting nutrient application, the fortuitous addition of a real- technologies that provide nutrition through-
management process has helped eliminate time kinetics (RTK)-guidance auto-steering out the entire growing season. Finding what
variability in soil test levels. system in early 2010 allowed application of works is why we’ve been doing on-farm
“So much of crop risk management is anhydrous preplant. research so long and why we will continue
reducing variability,” says Drackett. “Since “We’ve experienced several years when to do so.”

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 17


Managing P Soil Test Values

B Y G Y L E S W. R A N D A L L , P h . D .
Unversity of Minnesota — Waseca
Soil testing is the best tool farmers have Table G.
for determining and managing phos- Calculate P and K Removal rates
phorus (P) levels in their fields. Testing To calculate phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) removal rates in corn grain and
can confirm increases in soil test phos- soybean seed, multiply yield by estimated P and K removal constants.
phorus (STP) resulting from application
of P and also document how much
crop removal has decreased STP. P Removal Rate = corn yield bu. X .35 (P2O5 /bu. removal constant)
Unfortunately, in the last decade or
K Removal Rate = corn yield bu. X .25 (K2O/bu. removal constant)
two, STP has declined in many areas
of the Corn Belt. The steady decline is SOYBEAN
generally due to increasing yields, which
P Removal Rate = soybean yield bu. X .85 (P2O5 /bu. removal constant)
remove greater levels of P from the soil,
coupled with P application rates that K Removal Rate = soybean yield bu. X 1.3 (K2O/bu. removal constant)
often have fallen below crop nutrient
Source: G. Randall, University of Minnesota
removal rates (Table G). This trend is
particularly evident for rented land when
the renter chooses to mine P from the applied for corn each year followed by P to be available in the soil.
soil rather than apply fertilizer or manure no additional P for soybeans the next Maintaining high STP values gives
P at a rate sufficient to maintain STP at year. All other inputs were similar across growers the flexibility to skip P fertiliza-
an optimum level. both STP regimes. tion without sacrificing yield. Moreover,
Table H shows the economic penalty the risk of failing to maximize yield
Building P soil test values (nearly $120 per acre per year) of low- in exceptional years is reduced by
Since nutrients removed by the crop testing compared to very-high-testing maintaining STP at high levels. Less-
need to be replaced by fertilizer or soils even when P fertilizer is applied. than-high STP values can easily be yield
manure P to maintain soil test P values, This illustrates further that managing limiting, resulting in potential yield being
farmers often ask, “How much phos- soil phosphorus levels is critical as left in the field. Finally, high STP gives
phate will it take to raise my STP value farmers attempt to maximize the extra resource value to the land, provid-
to the optimum level?” This is a difficult return on their fertilizer dollar. Knowing ing better return on investment to both
question to answer as the amount of the soil test P status of soils is espe- the landowner and renter.
P required depends on current and tar- cially important on rented or recently Visit for
geted STP levels, subsoil P level, depth acquired acres. Simply said, high yields more information on soil testing and
of P2O5 incorporation and crop yields/ require high P uptake, which requires managing phosphorus.
nutrient removal during the time frame
Table H.
in which the STP is to be increased.
A common rule of thumb developed Soil Test P Impact on Yield, Economic Return
by University of Illinois researchers ECONOMIC
says 18 pounds P2O5 per acre will LOW STP VERY HIGH YIELD ACRE FOR VERY
increase Bray P1 by 1 ppm. In a 12-year
Minnesota study during the ’70s and P2O5 prior to corn 50 lbs /A 50 lbs /A
’80s, with corn yields averaging 150
bu /acre, Bray P1 STP was maintained $117
Corn yield 3-yr avg. 167 bu 193 bu 26 bu
at 20 ppm with an annual 50-pounds- ($4.50/bu)
P2O5-per-acre rate. STP increased 1 $97.50
ppm per year when an additional 30 Soybean yield 3-yr avg. 39 bu 49 bu 10 bu
pounds P2O5 per acre were applied Source: G. Randall, University of Minnesota
annually. Thus, given the many variables
involved, annual soil testing is an excel-
lent way to monitor changes in STP for
each particular situation.
Recent research indicates high soil
test P values may be necessary for
economically successful corn and
soybean production. A three-year study
in Minnesota compared yields of corn
and soybeans grown on low P-testing
soil and very high P-testing soil. A
50-pounds-P2O5-per-acre rate was

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 19


An “Edge”
Edge” That Leaves
Leave Nothing
othing to Chanc

Kriss Schroeder
Colby, Kansas
• Corn
• Wheat
• Sorghum
• Sunflower
• Dryland, no-till, intensive management

In 1991, when Kriss Schroeder put away year, he studies seed and fertilizer test from 0 to 6 inches and also 6 to 24 inches.
his veterinary license and came home to plots and does his own on-farm testing of In years in which nutrient leaching is sus-
farm near Colby, Kan., he knew he’d need new genetics as well as other crop produc- pected, N, Cl and S are evaluated at 24- to
an edge to make a living in the dryland- tion products. 48-inch depths.
cropping region. “On-farm research is the fun part of
Schroeder adopted an intensive manage- farming. There are a lot of differences NUTRIENT PLAN ADJUSTED,
ment program that took a 180-degree in soils, and something that might work BALANCED EACH YEAR
approach to traditional summer-fallow 200 miles from here may not work here,” Using a spreadsheet built following nutri-
wheat production. By switching to continu- he explains. “On-farm research is risk ent recommendations from Kansas State
ous no-till, he now raises a crop every year, management. Before you spend thousands University, Schroeder develops a balanced
on every acre. of dollars on something, you’d better know nutrient program for each field, each
“Water is by far our number one limiting it works.” year, adjusting the rates up or down a bit
factor to crop production. By switching to depending on expectations for the growing
no-till, I felt I would be able to conserve SOIL TESTING EVERY YEAR season. He stresses the importance of
enough moisture to grow a crop every Another risk-management tool Schroeder formulating a program every year on every
year,” relates Schroeder. “We do this by employs is annual soil testing of every field. field and balancing nutrition for his crops.
keeping as much residue on the surface as While he has experimented with 2.5-acre “If you’re taking vitamins, you don’t load
possible and not letting anything grow that grid sampling, he currently samples every up on vitamin C and forget about vitamin
doesn’t produce income.” 8 to 10 acres and combines samples from A, calcium and other nutrients,” he says.
With 70 percent of his acres in corn, he like soils within each field. “Plants are no different. If you load up one
follows a two- to three-year cycle of the “Through the years, the greatest variabil- nutrient and another nutrient is limiting,
same crop, rather than rotating yearly. This ity we’ve seen from a nutrition standpoint that will limit your yields. I strive to make
enhances weed control and reduces the is due to mineralization of nutrients from sure nothing I can control limits my yields.”
risk that can come from needing to drill the previous crop’s residue,” Schroeder At planting, granular fertilizer is applied
wheat immediately following the combine explains. “Some years we have a fair as a starter with the planter or drill. He uses
in the fall. amount of rain and heat. That mineralizes a MicroEssentials® SZ™ as his source for P,
Residue preservation involves stripper- lot of nutrients. If the following year is dry, N, Zn, S and supplements it with additional
headers during wheat harvest and keeping we may not have as much mineralization, K as needed. Liquid nitrogen in the form
the header as high as possible during corn, so we’ll need to apply more fertilizer.” He of UAN is streamed on in a band every
sorghum and sunflower harvest so more estimates this variability can range from a 15 inches in the fall or winter after the
residue stands longer. Stubble and stalks nearly insignificant amount to the crop’s soil temperature drops below 50 degrees.
are moisture-management assets providing full requirement from the lowest to highest If moisture conditions are favorable for a
shade, snow-holding capacity and protec- years; therefore, he is not confident in bumper crop, additional N is occasionally
tion from drying winds. Weeds are killed building a nutrient program based strictly applied in the spring.
before they can steal moisture. on estimated crop removal. Yields are proof Schroeder has found the
Beyond conserving moisture, the north- Levels of mobile nutrients, nitrogen (N), “edge” he needs for success. His whole-
west Kansas farmer believes good genetics chloride (Cl) and sulfur (S), also are hard to farm averages for each crop are well above
and a balanced soil fertility program are the predict without annual soil tests because of average for the area.
most important facets of his success. Each leaching. Soil samples typically are pulled

20 This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company.

Magnesium—Often Forgotten, but Most Essential
IPNI — Retired
A g r i - Te c h S e r v i c e s L L C , P r e s i d e n t

Without photosynthesis, plant life would • Increasing rates of needed K fertil-

not exist. And without magnesium (Mg), izers will put greater stress on Mg
there would be no photosynthesis. absorption. This places more K ions
Plants could not produce our food, and in the soil solution to compete with
hunger would become our number one Mg ions for uptake by plant roots.
concern. • Root uptake difficulties brought on
Often the “forgotten nutrient,” Mg is by soil acidity, by soil flooding or
the most essential of the 17 nutrients compaction, or by reduced-tillage Time-proven source of Mg
needed for plant growth. It is a vital practices. Crop advisors often address the need
team player working with other nutri- • Greater removal of Mg from the for Mg by incorporating potassium
ents and is essential for top-profit crop field occurs due to increasing yields magnesium sulfate (K-Mag®) into a
production. and multiple cropping. (Nutrient balanced fertilization program. Also
uptake values for individual crops known as langbeinite or double sulfate
Contributions to plant growth are presented on page 12.) of potash, K-Mag is sourced from ore
As the central ion in the chlorophyll beds deep beneath the earth’s surface.
molecule, Mg is essential for photosyn- Higher crop yield and quality Langbeinite, an evaporite mineral, is
thesis. It works with phosphorus (P) to Magnesium’s contributions to yield one of the most soluble salts in the
transfer energy needed within the plant and quality are both crop and site ocean. As a result, K-Mag is virtually
for growth, and it works with nitrogen specific. Scientists in Minnesota, for 100 percent water soluble and the Mg,
(N), sulfur (S) and potassium (K) to build example, pay special attention to the K and S it provides are immediately
quality protein. Seed formation requires Mg status of forage crops to help avoid available to crops.
both Mg and P. an Mg shortage in the diet of ruminant
animals. Magnesium’s contributions to
Crop and soil needs for Mg crop quality are seldom visible since
are science based it works behind the scenes regulating
Soil tests are the most reliable way enzyme systems, producing sugars or
to determine Mg availability from soil helping with other vital crop activities.
reserves. The soil’s Mg status should University specialists in the Southeast
be updated whenever pH, P and K United States point out that a shortage
levels are checked. Remember, crop of Mg is most likely for high-yield crops
response to fertilizer Mg occurs most growing on acidic, sandy soils of the
often on acidic, low-exchange-capacity Coastal Plain.
soils that are low in organic matter and Vegetable crops are often responsive
soil test Mg. to fertilizer Mg. For example, Mg
Plant analysis can help to detect a improved the protein content of potatoes
shortage of Mg. Sample the whole plant and reduced internal discoloration while
at the seedling stage for corn, small increasing firmness. Color disorders in
grains or soybeans. As plants approach tomatoes were reduced by balancing
their reproductive stage, specific leaves Mg and K in the fertilization program.
become a better measure of the Mg Yield response has been noted for
status. For many crops, a rule of thumb different crops growing on low-testing
is to sample the youngest fully mature soils: 1) Mg increased potato yield from
leaves. If possible, collect a soil sample 6.7 to 8.7 tons per acre in Michigan;
at the same time and from the same 2) 50 lbs/acre of Mg increased tomato
area of the plant sample. yield from 16.5 to 20.3 tons/acre; and
3) Mg increased corn grain yield at three
Increasing yields will require locations on low-Mg coastal plain soils.
higher Mg levels To learn more about the role of
• Higher plant populations per acre will magnesium in crop production,
require more nutrients to meet growth visit

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 21


Understanding Zinc Deficiency

The Mosaic Company
Zinc (Zn) has been put to work on farms lower soil temperature and higher soil
for decades. Fencing wire and nails are moisture level. These conditions put
galvanized with zinc to prevent rust. stress on a small root system, making
Metal buckets are coated with zinc to it difficult to uptake required Zn, as
last longer. However, zinc’s most impor- well as P and Mg.
tant job is in the field, as one of the 17 • Low organic matter. Zinc availability
essential elements in plant growth. also has been linked to soil organic
Zinc deficiency is growing in the matter content. The soil test for Zn
Midwest, and it is more likely to occur usually increases as the soil organic
in corn than soybean fields. This is matter content increases. So, Zn
due in part to earlier planting of corn in deficiency symptoms will usually
cool and moist soil. Also, more residue appear first on eroded portions of the
resulting from conservation tillage and landscape where the organic matter
higher grain yields places added stress content is low.
on seedlings to absorb Zn from soil. • Early crop-planting windows.
Zinc is heavily involved in enzyme Corn and certain vegetables are
systems that regulate the early growth being seeded earlier in the spring,
stages, and is vital for fruit, seed and when soils are cool and moist. This
root system development, photosynthe- compounds the stress on seed- The photo above illustrates symptoms
sis, formation of plant growth regulators lings caused by reduced tillage, and of zinc deficiency in corn.
and crop stress protection. In addition, makes a readily available supply of Zn
Zn is a team player with nitrogen (N), and other nutrients even more impor-
phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). tant to ensure early plant growth.
However, Zn is required in very small • Soils testing low in Zn and high
amounts compared to N or K. Only in P. Soil-test each field to help
about a half-pound of Zn is needed per identify where crops will respond to
acre for high-yield (180 bu/acre) corn Zn. Fields that test low in Zn and high
production. Sixty-bushel wheat needs in soil pH and P need attention first.
about 0.28 pound of Zn per acre. Yet, University scientists report that a low
lack of Zn can limit plant growth, just Zn level, teamed with a high soil pH,
like N or K, if the soil is deficient or crop can increase crop uptake of P to an
uptake is restricted. excessive level. A shortage of Zn
severely impairs the plant’s ability to
Give plants a good start regulate P accumulation. This triggers
Crops need readily available Zn, excess uptake of P and the develop-
especially when plants are young and ment of Zn deficiency symptoms.
growing vigorously. Zn does not move
in the soil, so the small seedling’s root Getting ready for next year’s
system may have difficulty finding and crops starts now
taking up Zn reserves. Zinc availability Soil and plant analysis labs provide
and uptake also can be limited by other guidelines for sampling fields, evaluating
environmental and crop management crop need for Zn and determining the
practices, including: amount of fertilizer Zn needed to correct
• Liming to reduce soil acidity. a deficiency.
Availability of Zn to plants declines as Soil-sample fields carefully, and
soil pH increases. Zinc is usually more analyze the lab reports on a field-by-
available as soil pH moves to the acid field, crop-by-crop basis with your
side of 7.0. Be alert for a Zn shortage agronomic advisor. Remember, a Zn
for sensitive crops growing on soils deficiency is often not visible at the high-
with pH 6.0 or higher. yield level. Thus, soil and plant analysis
• Low soil temperature. The solubility are key detection tools. Knowing the
or availability of Zn in soil is affected other conditions that create resis-
by soil temperature, and solubility tance to root uptake of Zn will help to
decreases as soil temperature drops. determine when Zn should become a
• Reduced-tillage systems. Crop member of the balanced nutrient team.
residues on the soil surface at plant- To learn more about zinc, visit
ing time shade the soil, resulting in a

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company. 23

The Mosaic Company

Global demand for the leading grain Grain-based biofuels have both pas- will inch ahead and stocks will fall
and oilseed crops is projected to sionate proponents and opponents, when harvests fall below trend growth
increase from about 2.6 billion tonnes but political support for these programs as is the case this year. Nevertheless,
today to 3.1 billion tonnes in 2020 and looks solid, particularly if energy prices farmers and crop input suppliers
to more than 4.5 billion tonnes in 2050. trend up as predicted this decade will need to whip the supply horse
In fact, demand growth has accelerated and grain and oilseed prices remain at in order for it to keep pace with the
despite the Great Recession and linger- moderate levels due to expected yield demand horse. That is exactly what
ing fears about the global economy. increases. For example, corn used for futures prices for most agricultural
Demand has increased at a 2.2 percent ethanol production in the United States commodities are signaling today for the
per-year clip during the last five years is projected to increase to more than next several crop years: Keep whipping
compared to a 1.8 percent per-year pace 135 million tonnes, or about 5.4 billion the supply horse by planting record
during the first half of the last decade. bushels, in order to meet blending man- area and harvesting record yields year
Grain and oilseed demand is fueled dates by the middle of this decade. after year.
by three key drivers: 1) steady popula- Given this positive demand outlook, Yet, as highlighted throughout this
tion growth, 2) increases in income and the challenge for farmers around supplement, achieving the next genera-
the upgrading of diets by a swelling the world is to produce another tion of yields will require a complete
middle class, especially in the populous 500 million tonnes of grains and bundle of high-technology inputs—
and rapidly developing countries of oilseeds per year by the end of including not only promising new seed
Asia, and 3) the expansion of grain- the decade—equal to another U.S. varieties but also more sophisticated
based biofuels production, particularly harvest—and to boost global produc- crop nutrient products and practices.
the exponential growth of corn-based tion by more than 70 percent by the For example, feeding 45,000 corn plants
ethanol output in the United States. middle of this century. Farmers will per acre will require innovative products
All of these demand drivers look need to harvest record area and reap that uniformly deliver sufficient amounts
positive. Global population is projected ever-increasing yields in order for grain of primary as well as secondary nutri-
to increase from 6.7 billion today to and oilseed supplies to keep pace with ents and micronutrients. This also likely
7.6 billion by the end of the decade accelerating demand. will necessitate more precise placement
and to more than 9.0 billion by 2050. Put another way, the horse race or even multiple applications. One thing
Global population currently increases between grain and oilseed supply and we can say with certainty: Meeting
about 75 million people per year—the demand looks like a nearly dead heat. future demand will require finding the
equivalent of adding another Ethiopia to Supply will inch ahead and stocks will most synergistic combination of innova-
the world each year. grow when harvests exceed trend as was tive production technologies with which
Based on IHS Global Insight fore- the case in 2008 and 2009. Demand to drive tomorrow’s high-yield systems.
casts, global GDP per capita in 2005
dollars is projected to increase from the
Great Recession low of $7,200 to more
than $9,300 in 2020 and to about
$18,700 by 2050. Statistics show
people spend a large percentage of
the increase in income on protein-rich
and more grain-intensive foods such
as meat, eggs and dairy products as
they move from low to moderate levels
of income.
24 This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company.
© 2010, The Mosaic Company. All rights reserved. MicroEssentials is a registered trademark of The Mosaic Company. MES-0169

The next generation

neration of fertilizer
for the next generation of farming.

Every MicroEssentials With every new generation, population continues to grow. This means we need more food.
granule contains nitrogen, Today’s farmers are leading the way to meet the increasing food demands of the future.
phosphorus and sulfur. This MicroEssentials® is the next generation of fertilizer designed to meet the needs of your
ensures uniform distribution advanced farming operation. Demand more;
and better nutrient uptake. demand MicroEssentials. For more information,
go to
Are You Ready
for Higher Yields?
Achieving the next generation of yields will require a complete
package of high-technology inputs, new management practices
and crop fertility. Review the checklist below to see if your crop
production program is ready for the higher yields needed to meet
future demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel.

  I have a fertility plan for every field. Page 20

  I have made management changes to ensure I’m optimizing

the return on my investment in seed. Page 8

  I agree the triple-stack hybrids I’m planting yield more and need
a higher level of fertility to fulfill their yield potential. Page 2

  My fertilizer application rates have increased as my yields

increase. Page 2

  I have a regular, systematic plan to soil-test every field on my

farm to make sure soil nutrient levels have not decreased
below critical levels. Page 13

  I am experimenting with higher plant populations on my farm.

Page 8

  In the past three years, I have seen corn plants on my farm
showing pale striping of the leaves. Page 22

  Sulfur is a nutrient that may be needed on my farm. Page 14

For more information, turn to the page

listed after each statement, visit

This information produced and presented by The Mosaic Company.