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5 Things to Consider When Using Potassium Fertilizer

Potassium Fertilizer is often a crucial tool for soybean and corn growers, but in the current market, there are often complexities that farmers need to consider when using fertilizer. We have compiled an easy to follow guide to help precision farmers make the most of their fertilizer management and select the best potassium fertilizer for their farms.

5 Things to Consider When Using Potassium Fertilizer

Timing isnít Everything
Traditionally a great focus has been put onto the timing of using potassium fertilizer, now, with modern precision farming understanding that has been collaborated from masses of farming data the understanding has changed. More crucial to fertilization is the rate of application over the specific times of application.

Comprehensive feedback from collated data shows that applying the correct rate of potassium fertilizer (often ahead of the crop) is much better for yield than timing regular periods of fertilization throughout the year. These studies have been conducted over many growing seasons and the outcome has been unanimous. Using the correct rate improves yield and gives farmers higher savings than if they had regularly timed their fertilization.

Forget Your Yield Target
We all have goals for our overall yield and often can get blind to the actual data we have in our possession. Focusing on yield goals and then fertilizing accordingly is instantly going to set you up for a harder and more expensive fertilization process. Instead, use your proven yield results that you have collated using your yield monitor technology and fertilize your fields according to the hard-proven data.

This will keep your fertilization costs down, prevent overuse of fertilizer and provide a more consistent and achievable method. Your soils will never be without potassium so ensuring that you use the historical data correctly and not worrying about crop predictions will give you a far more tangible and exact method in which to set your fertilization rate.

Consistent Soil Sampling
Throughout the year your fields will change and the soils will undergo changes especially when it comes to potassium levels. At different points in the year, your soil will have higher and lower potassium levels. Other nutrients will remain fairly static in your fieldís composition, but potassium does vary (sometimes quite drastically) over the course of a growing season.

To make sure you are combatting this and understanding your soilís potassium levels comprehensively, it is best to consistently check your soil at the exact same times each and every year. This will help you build up a completely accurate picture of how your soils change over the course of the year as well as identify trends over a number of years.

Doing this type of consistent and exact testing will make it incredibly easy to calculate how much potassium you need to put back into the soil at any given time.

Use Potassium Sparingly
Following on from the last step, it is important that you only apply potassium to your fields as and when it is required at the exact measurement that you have calculated. Failure to do so can cause a few issues.

Firstly, it will skew your testing and what was once an accurate gauge of your soilís potassium levels will become unbalanced and you wonít be able to tell if the potassium in the soil is residual from over application on subsequent tests. Factoring in over application is time-consuming and often fraught with problems and guesswork as you try to compensate and balance for any over application.

Secondly, not all soil types are receptive to potassium, this means that you could be wasting a lot of money applying potassium to soils that canít make use of it or where it is altogether unneeded.

  • Loams and Clay
    Loam and clay type soils donít particularly benefit from potassium application and the profitable rate from an application of potassium fertilizer is very low if the rate of the soil is two hundred parts per million potassium. Clay soils tend to retain potassium a bit better than other soil types and may not need an application of fertilizer even if they are showing a lower reading.
  • Sandy Soil
    Sandy soils are particularly poor at retaining potassium and applying potassium fertilizer to sandy soil can be a fruitless and expensive exercise. Typically, sandy soil types read much lower than clay and loam soil types for potassium but again, the answer doesnít seem to be applying potassium fertilizer as farmers have experimented with this to no avail.

Take into Account Your Preferred Tilling Method
Applying potassium fertilizer works well on fully tilled fields because the fertilizer is absorbed deeper into the soil and captured in the pockets created by full tilling. Strip-tilling and no-till methods have a reduced uptake of potassium because the fertilizer sits on the surface of the soil.

In the case of strip-tilling, the potassium finds itself in strip-like pockets and your field will become uneven and inconsistent where pockets of potassium have been embedded into the strips but the remaining potassium sits on the surface.

No-till generally has little to no benefit of potassium fertilization as the potassium canít penetrate into the soil and sits on the field surface. Eventually, with rainfall, this potassium is ultimately washed away and leads farmers to spend a lot of money re-fertilizing the field in the hope that they can get their potassium readings up.
Assess your tilling method, the soil type and also your potassium readings and then make an informed decision about whether or not a field needs potassium fertilizer as well as whether or not the field is suitable to absorb that fertilizer. This will save you time in advance of your fertilization and help you reduce the money youíre spending on potassium fertilizer.

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