Here's how farmers can minimize nutrient loss
Editor's note: The following information was provided by the Todd County Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Here are some strategies to minimize nutrient loss from fields:
Get your soils tests updated. You need to know what you already have before adding more. If the cup is already full you can't put more in — it runs off or leaches into groundwater.
Set a realistic yield goal. There is much research out there on how much of each type of nutrient is needed to get a crop to produce that yield. Only apply what is needed, when it is needed.
Timing is everything. To use the fertilizer, you need actively growing plants. Bacteria that convert nitrogen into the various forms that plants use are most active when soil temps are above 50 degrees. Applying manure or other fertilizers to frozen ground is not your best investment. Manure is a valuable resource that should be properly utilized for its nutrient content, not treated as a waste product to be gotten rid of.
Nutrients leave the field in various ways. One is through run-off. Phosphorus attaches to soil particles. When soil particles move, so does the nutrient. It is very important to control erosion both wind and water. Stop by the office to get a list of practices to help with this.
Another way nutrient leave the field is by leaching. Several nutrients, including nitrogen, move through the soil with water movement. Applying more nutrients than plants can take up at their particular growth stage leaves nutrients available for movement, potentially reaching groundwater.