If we are trying to manage raw materials in any production system, we need to determine the following:

  1. How much raw material do I need?

  2. How much raw material do I have in stock?

  3. How much material do I need to get to ensure that I have enough?

The same approach applies to plant nutrition. Let us explore each question.

How much of each nutrient do I need?

Each crop has its own nutrient requirement and we must adjust our nutrient supply to suit. Fortunately, the requirement of all of the major crops have been thoroughly researched and are well known. Fertilizing exotic crops can present problems and often requires some educated guessing if the nutrient requirements have never been researched.

It is also important to estimate your yield goal. If your crop will be grown under very good conditions, it is necessary to have a higher supply of nutrients to get maximum production. However, if crop growth is expected to be low due to something that you cannot resolve (for example poor weather conditions), then it makes no sense to apply high amounts of nutrients that the crop will not use.

How much of each nutrient do I have?

This is where soil analysis becomes important. Soil analysis indicates the amounts of plant available nutrients in the soil. It identifies which ones are in short supply and you can then decide what needs to be applied.

While it is essential to apply the nutrients that are in short supply, it is also important that you do not apply nutrients that are already adequately supplied. Not only is this a waste of money, but it can lead to pollution problems and may actually reduce production by causing imbalance of nutrients.

How much should I apply?

The soil report will give a suggested amount of nutrients to be applied for the crop you want to grow on that soil. This recommendation will give very good results, but must be modified to suit your conditions. For example, if the price of fertilizers suddenly increases, it may be necessary to reduce the fertilizer rates. However, if the price of fertilizers drops, you may wish to apply a 2-crop dose of the immobile nutrients such as phosphorus so that you will not have to use any when the price increases (this cannot be done with mobile nutrients such as nitrogen).

The report would recommend which nutrients are needed, but will not recommend which fertilizers to use. This must be done by a person who understands what is needed and knows what fertilizer materials are available in your area.

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