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Monday, February 25, 2013

Band or Broadcast

I just finished reading an article in Crops and Soils Magazine by Dan Clarke and Byron Vaughn about whether to broadcast or band fertilizer.  They started by explaining how elements applied in fertilizer can become unavailable.  They say that factors such as fertilizer incorporation, soil moisture and temperature can all affect nutrient availability.  I would add exchange capacity and pH to the list.

They outline 4 scenarios and how they affect crop response.

  • When fertility is high,  there is no advantage either way
  • Band can exceed broadcast when fertility is low and application rates are low, but the methods even out at optimum rates.
  • In cold wet soils, banding can beat broadcasting.  A combination of low soil test, dry conditions and poor incorporation of broadcast materials can throw the advantage to banding.  Another advantage for banding could be where pH is too high or low and exchange capacity is high.  
  • Broadcasting can have the advantage on soil with low exchange, proper pH and warm moist condition.
They conclude that banding is almost always just as effective or more effective than broadcasting.  They also say that there is merit in combining the two.  Finally they point out that sooner or later you need to replace nutrients removed.

That last line makes it clear.  There is no free lunch.  Lower rates will not sustain productivity in the long term.  Producers also need to consider cost and convenience.  Liquids tend to cost more.  You also have the issue of needing to handle fertilizer at the same time as you are trying to get planting done as quickly as possible.  Broadcast fertilizer can be applied in the fall or early spring when workloads are easier to manage.  I would tend to favor broadcast because of time and workload, unless fertility is extremely low.

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