Fall Fertilization
by Mike McDowell, October 2013

The 2013 harvest season is in full swing after a very challenging year in the agronomic field.  Some challenges included the intense rainfall that we had in the early part of the season that made getting a crop put in the ground extremely difficult and also the severe drought in the later part of the season that put a damper on crop yield potentials. Many of the producers that I have talked to just want to salvage the yields that they have for the year and begin planning for next season, although it is important to point out that yields so far this fall have been better than expected. When planning for the upcoming 2014 crop year, one big question that many producers are contemplating is whether or not to put their fertilizer on in the fall or the spring.  This article discusses the ways that fall fertilization can pay off for you and your farming operation:

1.      Timeliness of application: there is more time in the fall to put fertilizer on all types of crop ground. We all remember how rushed things were this spring when trying to get your crops fertilized and planted, when it seemed like every other day it was raining. During this time of the year, each of our locations has more manpower to get your fields spread quickly compared to the spring when applicators are balancing time between sprayers and the fertilizer spreaders.

2.      Less soil compaction risk: generally in the fall, soils are much dryer when applying fertilizer than in the spring season. Heavy fertilizing equipment can cause compaction in the rooting zone when soils are driven on when they are too saturated with moisture. This can cause roots of some plants to pancake, or spread out when they hit a compacted layer of soil, resulting in poor crop standability and less uptake of nutrients.

3.      Lastly, according to an article from the University of Purdue, adding Potassium to alfalfa fields in the fall can increase the plant’s winter hardiness and survival. With the issues we had this year with winter kill on alfalfa stands, it is an important option to consider.

I hope everyone has a great fall with a safe and timely harvest. Thank you

Citation for article from Purdue
The long-term impact of phosphorus and potassium fertilization on alfalfa yield and yield components, Crop science [0011-183X] Berg, W K yr:2007 vol:47 iss:5 pg:2198