Nutrient Management Plans: Years of Experience Prove Their Value

Rod Gustafson

When Federated Agronomist Rod Gustafson (pictured) started as the assistant manager at Albertville in the mid-1990s, RoundUp Ready® crops were new and ag technology was slowly gaining momentum. Corn prices were just over $2/bu. back then, and they rose to over $7/bu. before coming back down to the current $3-4/bu.

Gustafson has “seen a lot of things” in his 24 years with Federated, and when it comes to crop nutrition, he’s seen more than a few failures when growers have ineffectively planned crop nutrients.

Sounding like the ag teacher he initially trained to be, he said, “You have to go back to the basics.” Look at soil samples and determine what the [nutrient] needs are. With commodity prices what they are, this basic approach can positively affect yield potential.

“Try to have the most current soil samples,” said Gustafson. For the 2018 growing season, don’t rely on samples that are older than Fall 2014. “Get new samples early in the spring,” he said, but if time doesn’t permit, in-crop soil sampling is the next best option so the test results are available for fall-applied nutrients.

Growers can take full credit for nitrogen from alfalfa and other legume crops, and if manure has been applied, “you can fully take advantage of that, too,” said Gustafson. But basing nutrient needs on crop removal alone – trying to guess what was added or taken away – isn’t a good basis for effective nutrient management.

“With commodity pricing, you don’t want to overdo it (fertilizer application], but you can’t afford to underdo it either,” he said. “Don’t shoot from the hip.”

“Go through, field by field, and get a plan set before you are too busy to think about it,” said Gustafson. It’s also a good time to think ahead about grid sampling for variable rate technology (VRT) applications (a Federated service).

As technology races forward, farms grow, and costs soar, the need for expertise is greater. Working with customers is still one of Gustafson’s “favorite things,” and he will readily share his hard-earned ag expertise – as will his fellow Federated Agronomists. Contact one of them to get your nutrient management plans in place today.