Montana State University

MSU Extension: In-season fertilizing with immobile nutrients can boost crops

July 9, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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BOZEMAN – In addition to nitrogen and sulfur, several soil nutrients can be applied in-season to help improve crop yields. Early-to-midseason application of nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium, or metal micronutrients such as iron, can benefit yields when crops are stressed by cold, dry or very wet conditions.

The best bet for ensuring optimal yields is balanced soil fertility going into the growing season. However, "if soil nutrients are marginal and root growth is slow due to cold or very wet conditions, then roots might not come into contact with a sufficient amount of nutrients," said Clain Jones, Extension soil fertility specialist in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University.

It is important to determine whether poor crop health is really due to nutrient deficiency. Water-logged soils may actually have increased phosphorus availability and disease tends to be a bigger issue in wet conditions.

Application to plant leaves to supply micronutrients and immobile macronutrients such as phosphorus is most beneficial if applied when there is enough leaf area to catch the liquid fertilizer. If immobile nutrients land on the soil surface, they will likely not be readily available to the roots.

More detailed information is available in a full length press release on Jones’ website http://landresources.montana.edu/soilfertility

Contact: Clain Jones (406) 994-6076 or clainj@montana.edu.