Fertilizer use Efficiency - Parrish and Heimbecker, Limited Crop Nutrients | P & H

Winter planning produces nutrient management gains

Fertilizer is probably one of the biggest expense lines in your ledger. That’s the economic reality.

Done right, good nutrient management can have a big impact on crop health and yield. That’s the agronomic reality.

For both economics and agronomics, it’s worth getting nutrient management right.

You can’t build an efficient nutrient management plan on the fly. But the thought of trying to decipher soil test data or calculate the maximum economic rate of nitrogen (MERN) for your newest farm can be daunting.  That’s where we come in.

Building a multi-year, field-specific plan will help you sleep at night knowing your fertilizer strategy is based on sound thinking. Book a meeting with your P&H representative and we can walk through the critical steps to successful nutrient management for your operation.

Crop rotation planning

The first step in optimizing fertilizer use is crop rotation planning. What crop rotations fit your farming operation and maximize each crop’s nutrient use efficiency?  For example, in Western Canada wheat followed by oilseeds or pulses yields 16% higher than a wheat-on-wheat rotation. (Scott, SK. 93-99). (source: https://prairiesoilsandcrops.ca/articles/volume-5-8-screen.pdf)

Different crops remove different nutrients from the soil. In order to balance nutrients you need to know soil fertility levels, yield goals, and crop needs to determine proper fertilizer application rates.

Crop rotation also influences the rate of N mineralization or the conversion of organic N to mineral N by modifying soil moisture, soil temperature, pH, plant residue, and tillage practices.

The 4R nutrient stewardship strategy

Always consider the 4Rs when doing your nutrient management plans:

  • Right source
  • Right rate
  • Right time
  • Right place

The goal is to optimize fertilizer use by matching the nutrient supply with the crop’s needs. We do this while accounting for the local soil and environmental conditions and to avoid losses through leaching and volatilization.

Fertilizer source

The source of fertilizer can affect the crop’s ability to use essential nutrients.

P&H offers dry and liquid fertilizers, including starters for quick crop emergence and fertilizer impregnation of micronutrients. Simply adding essential micronutrients in a fertilizer blend can save you time and money while addressing the crop’s nutrition needs. Specialty products like ESN, SuperU and nitrogen stabilizers are also available.

Applying the right rate

You have to apply the right rate to get the biggest agronomic and economic gains from your fertilizer application. First you have to know what nutrients are left in the soil after harvest. A soil test will provide data on the available nutrients. For instance, if there is 30 lbs/acre of reserve nitrogen leftover in the soil, that is $30.06 per acre savings on nitrogen alone (Urea at $1050/ mt.). You can’t manage what you don’t measure so don’t guess, get a soil test.


You can fertilize a crop either in the fall or spring. P&H has both the infrastructure and equipment to accommodate either timing. We know time is at a premium and we offer fast and easy loading and can even pre-blend a specific blend to avoid wait times at pickup.


Fertilizer placement can impact crop emergence and can become even more important in dry years. You need to place each nutrient where the crop roots can access it. Attention to seed and fertilizer placement in the ground can enhance crop uptake and avoid crop injury from fertilizer burn.

Don’t wait to work on your nutrient management plan.

Fertilizer is the largest variable cost for any cash crop farming operation. Specific management strategies can be applied to optimize crop yields while managing costs. Your P&H agronomist can offer insight on crop planning and maximize crop nutrient efficiencies. Give your local P&H retail a call to arrange soil testing on your fields.