Fertilizer

Crops need Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) to grow, along with a host of other nutrients and the level of these nutrients decrease in the soil as the plants take them up and crops are harvested. Farmers replace the fertility in the soil with manure, biosolids, cover crops or with commercial fertilizer and they are replace at rates that are prescribed by accredited professionals based on the current levels in the soil and by the amount that the following crop is projected to remove. With growing public concern over these nutrients in rivers and lakes, farmers are taking extra care to make sure the fertilizers stay in the soil and out of the water.  Broadcasting fertilizer on the surface of the ground without incorporation (tillage) can pose a risk, so farmers often place the fertilizer in a band below the surface near the seed. This can be done while strip tilling, at planting or while the plant is growing (called side-dressing).   The benefits of side-dressing are that, by giving fertilizer to the plant at the time it needs it the most, farmers can reduce the rate of fertilizer and minimize the risk of fertilizer loss into the environment (through both water and air).  Farmers and agri-business are using an approach called the 4- R’s to ensure that fertilizer stays on fields and out of waterways: Right Time, Right Place, Right Source and Right Rate

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