Crop Nutrient Uptake and Removal

Farming today is an increasingly complex business. However, when you break down the simplest function of agriculture, it’s all about nourishment. With the global population expected to reach nearly 10 billion by mid-century, nourishing your soil to meet this demand is increasingly essential to what you do.

How often does crop nutrient uptake and removal inform your soil management practices and fertility strategies? Using the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship –  right source, rate, time and place – Canadian farmers are implementing precision agronomy practices and other ag tech systems to achieve important objectives, from economic targets, to environmental goals, to food security measures.

Achieving ideal nutrient levels is a balancing act. If you have too much or too little, it can have a substantial impact on yield, crop quality and ultimately, your profitability. One way to look at a proper balance is to consider nutrient use efficiency, or the proportion of all the nutrients applied to, and taken up by, the crop.

Nutrient efficiency is monitored using a calculation of the output/input ratio, or the proportion of the applied nutrients taken in by the harvested product. Low ratios, those below 50 per cent, typically reflect nutrient loss to the environment. High ratios, over 90 per cent, often indicate nutrient removal during harvest, also called nutrient mining practices, which reduce soil fertility over the years.

These high and low ratios are not sustainable practices. The best crop productivity occurs in the “green zone” where the nutrient output/ratio sits between the high and low ratios. It’s also specific to each cropping system and nutrient.

Using modern technology, you can overcome nutrient-related limitations, improve nutrient availability to your crops and enhance the health of your soil. Further to this, you can increase productivity while reducing the risk of nutrient-related environmental impacts based on those high or low nutrient ratios. You can maintain or improve soil fertility by adding nutrient inputs that offset nutrient loss.

Keeping an optimal balance can pay off in major ways.

  • Improved productivity. Good nutrient management increases your potential crop yield and builds more resilient crops. It also means you will reduce waste and maximize profits as you deal with price fluctuations in both inputs purchased and products sold.
  • Environmental impact. Helping you grow more yield per acre, good nutrient and soil management keep nutrients within desired boundaries, so plants utilize what they need with minimal loss to the air or water.
  • Sustainability. Efficient fertility practices help your farm achieve economic, environmental and social goals as you look to future generations.

Implement a fertilizer strategy

With all the advantages it brings and risks it mitigates, having an effective fertilizer strategy for each growing season is key. Soil and fertilizer mismanagement can cost your farm in many ways. These include possibly using the wrong product or blend, negatively impacting soil heath by depleting non-added nutrients, and/or acidifying soils already low in pH.  It can also decrease your potential yield, so implementing a systematic approach to effective fertility management for each nutrient, field and time of year is a worthwhile investment.

This includes effective soil testing, which helps you apply the right nutrients to meet your crop requirements and account for the soil’s nutrients, both those already available and those with limited availability.

Decisive Farming’s Sure-Check can provide you consistent, reliable soil testing and results. This streamlined system delivers accredited lab analysis for over 20 different soil characteristics specific to each field GPS-referenced test point. It takes the complexity out of soil testing and analysis for each benchmarked point at 0-6” and 6-24” depths.

From taking the first soil sample to sharing their finished recommendations with you, Decisive Farming’s experienced agronomy experts develop recommendations specific to your fields, so you can make decisions with confidence knowing your best interests come first.

Make the most out of each farmable acre

Understanding the variable yield potential across the soil on your farm is the first step to strategically managing your fields. Next, you can take this further and improve your overall crop input efficiency by using a proven variable rate (VR) program. VR technology enhances the way you farm by using precise nutrient information to get optimal performance from all your crops.

For instance, a VR prescription might recommend using more nutrient applications in higher producing areas to push yields while prescribing less amounts in lower producing areas. Interestingly, those lower producing sections are often the places where groundwater leaching is most common, so it makes sense to pull back nutrient values there considering the crop is less likely to use them.

VR technology provides you soil and crop specific nutritional information and practices you can use to boost nutrient uptake, maintain or increase soil’s organic matter and decrease loss to the environment. Because production potential varies by numerous factors including location, climate, soil, crop and nutrient application, having one reliable management system can ensure you feel confident every time you hit the field.

Decisive Farming’s Optimize RX® is your solution to managing all the driving factors across your farm, as well as your VR technologies for applying the right amount of the right nutrients in the right places at the right time. Agronomy experts work with you to create custom prescriptions based your crop variety, field and zone needs. With unmatched customer support designed to simplify precision agriculture for you, your crop plans and inputs will align to the capabilities of your production goals and equipment.

  • Optimize production. Improve your overall crop input efficiency with a proven variable rate program to manage fertility on your farm. Get the most from every dollar spent on inputs and make the most of your acres.
  • Plan for success. Work with experienced experts to set achievable targets and meet those targets with your custom fertility prescription. Keep improving by investing, and saving, your dollars where it matters most. The effects of success will ripple across your entire farm.
  • Streamline decisions. Make each and every choice on your farm a confident and strategic one with tailored fertility plans and production goals based on all your specific nutrient needs.

Best management practices

Finally, when working to manage crop nutrient levels, the 4Rs of Nutrient Stewardship are there to guide you in achieving your production, profitability, environmental and sustainability goals.

Right source – Match the right fertilizer type to crop needs. This includes looking closely at the available nutrient sources and making informed decisions when selecting products to maintain a balanced supply of nutrients for optimal plant growth.

Right rate – Match the right fertilizer amounts to your crop needs. This depends on both the prior state of the soil and which crops are being grown.

Right time – Make nutrients available right when crops need them. This involves calculating the interplay of crop nutrient uptake and risk of loss, while considering field operation logistics.

Right place – Keep nutrients right where crops can use them. This involves analyzing and tracking the interplay between roots and soil to see nutrient movement and mitigate nutrient loss from the field.

It’s all about balance. When you’re balancing farm, industry and government expectations and improving your efficiency, productivity, economic and environmental goals, you’re looking out for the future of your farm while you help feed the world.

Ready to integrate a precision agronomy solution to improve overall crop input efficiency? Let’s get to work. Together. Check out our website ( for more information or contact your local Decisive Farming representative.