WAUKEE, Iowa — Soil fertility is the base for consistent high yields and profitable production.
Ryan Clayton, Pioneer field agronomist in central Iowa, discussed the importance of a good soil health foundation during a Forward Thinking Farmer webinar.
“When you build a house, you build it with a good foundation in mind,” Clayton said. “So, that’s what we’ve done here (with a yield pyramid concept).
“It starts with good drainage. That’s a big challenge for us here. Then soil pH, which helps makes nutrients available. Then there’s potassium and sulfur applications.”
The last element of a good foundation is nitrogen.
Clayton focused his presentation on potassium and sulfur, which are both important for plant health.
“Why is potassium so important? It allows the plant to better tolerate drought conditions,” he said. “Stalk quality is indirectly associated with potassium levels. And then the ability for a plant to hold off disease.
“Nitrogen use efficiency is directly correlated with potassium.”
Potassium fertilizer is expensive, but farmers can focus their applications to get the most bang for their buck.
Clayton recommended focusing on areas with low and very low levels to see a very high response to potassium applications.
It’s also important for farmers to understand sulfur needs in corn and soybeans.
“Sulfur is important in photosynthesis, seed production and nitrogen utilization,” Clayton said. “We see a lot of deficiencies in the spring with cool temperatures. Warmer soils release sulfur from organic matter.
“We’re seeing a 20- to 25-pound application of synthetic sulfur really having a high response.”