Broadcasting fertilizer not ideal

Canadian soil fertility experts have urged growers for years to side band nitrogen at seeding time.

Most producers in Western Canada have adopted the practice, but a burgeoning number of farmers are now broadcasting dry fertilizer in spring.

“We do have some fairly large farms that, for logistical reasons, are going what I call ‘back to the future,’ ” said Tom Jensen, northern Great Plains director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute. 

“They’re going back to broadcasting as opposed to side banding. A lot of it is so they don’t have to handle so much material at planting.”

Thom Weir, senior agronomist for Farmers Edge, based in Yorkton, Sask., has observed the same trend.

“We probably have seen a shift away from banding to broadcasting in the spring, pre-seeding,” he said. “(Many) guys are in situations where they don’t have time to apply all their nitrogen (at seeding)…. It’s not really a recommended practice but because of efficiencies growers have gone that way.”

Jensen said farmers are broadcasting nitrogen before seeding possibly because they don’t have enough labour to manage seed and fertilizer at planting time.

Side banding is still the best option, but broadcasting fertilizer isn’t as risky as advertised, Jensen said.

“I’ve been involved in some work with researchers the last five years, where we had fall and spring broadcast urea applications compared to side banding. 

“To tell you the truth, I was amazed how well that broadcasting did,” he said. 

“You’ll never lose out by banding. It’s a proven method. But I think to a certain degree we need to be flexible. There are times when broadcasting works reasonably well.”

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