TSM Services Research Farm, Catlin, Illinois, USA
     Total Soil Management® Program
                                  by TSM® Services, Inc.

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Fertilizer Efficiency
Test Plots
Fertilizer Efficiency
Nutrient Relationships
Nutrient Cycles
Pounds To Balance
Balance Charts
Fertilizer Budgets
Nutrient Excess/Deficiency
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Can fertilizer efficiency be increased? The answer is a definite YES!  Most agronomy handbooks state that fertilizer is by nature only 20% to 25% efficient. For example, to raise the Phosphorus test (P1 test) by 1 lb you should apply 9 lbs of P2O5. To raise the Potassium test (K test) 1 lb you should apply 4 lbs of K20. Other fertilizer materials are also inefficient.

However, with the TSM® program we feel there are ways to increase the efficiency of fertilizer. There are 4 ways specifically:
  • Recognizing nutrient relationships
  • Recognizing soil cycles
  • Using products which meet specific standards
  • Applying fertilizer annually
First, it is important to understand that all nutrients interact with each other. There are 16 nutrients in the soil considered essential for plant growth. If one particular nutrient is deficient, it could affect the uptake of another nutrient. For example, a Zinc deficiency in the soil affects the plant's ability to take up Phosphorus. In fact, there are many such relationships between the nutrients.

TSM® recognizes that using high quality micronutrients in specific ratios can cause the major elements, including Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, to be more available to the plant for uptake. This is discussed in detail in the topic "Nutrient Relationships".

Second, TSM® recognizes that soil "cycles" should be used in making fertilizer recommendations. Nutrients are not stagnant; in fact, they are always building or depleting in soil test values. A nutrient which is building is on an "up" cycle and a nutrient being depleted is on a "down" cycle.

In order to determine what cycle a nutrient is on, two consecutive soil tests must be taken (on an annual basis). By knowing the direction of a nutrient cycle, TSM® can adjust fertilizer rates accordingly.

Nutrients on "up" cycles have high fertilizer efficiency; therefore, the fertilizer amounts can be reduced. Nutrients on "down" cycles have low fertilizer efficiency, and therefore fertilizer amounts applied should be increased. By using this procedure, the effects of nutrient cycles can be decreased, thereby increasing fertilizer efficiency. This is discussed in detail in the topic "Nutrient Cycles".

Third, TSM® believes in strict pH management. All nutrients have an optimum pH range in which nutrients are most available to the plant. Plants also have an optimum pH level. With the use of finely-ground (150-200 mesh) high-calcium pelletized limestone, pH can be changed on an annual basis. TSM® uses the tradename "Granu-Cal®" for the pellet lime recommendations, and when combined with annual soil testing, pH management is possible.

Again, maintaining optimum pH levels will increase fertilizer efficiency. This is discussed in detail in the topic "Granu-Cal®".

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Finally, TSM® recommends that you make a fertilizer recommendation annually for each crop to be grown. The recommendation is tailored to the crop to be raised. Once again, when annual soil tests are taken, fertilizer amounts applied can be much closer to the correct amounts needed, without relying on carryover fertilizer.

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