Elon Musk says you should constantly think about how to do things better. That’s a timely mantra given the record fertilizer prices going into 2022.
How can crop fertility be done better? That brings me to current research at the University of Florida’s North Florida Research and Education Center — Suwannee Valley.
In 2019, researchers began working on controlled-release fertilizer. The impetus is a mandate from the state to reduce nitrogen use because of environmental regulations. But would controlled-release fertilizer meet the four R’s of nutrient stewardship: right rate, right source, right place, right time?
“The controlled-release product caters to the growth cycle of the crop and weather trends over time,” says De Broughton, UF regional specialized agent for row crops. “The coating is customized for the release of fertilizer based on when the crop needs it and the history of weather trends over time. If you consider that, the ‘right time’ is already determined, and the ‘right source’ allows it to be spoonfed to the crop throughout the season.”
Broughton and other researchers, in cooperation with farm partners, are trying to determine the final two points of stewardship: right rate and right placement.
“We know it’s efficacious and works in corn. We are investigating how to give the crop exactly what it needs for the best yield, while reducing the environmental impact and improving water quality over time,” she says.
Broughton says moving forward with controlled-release fertilizer research, they will repeat the project in different soil types and conditions to determine the best rate and placement for corn to optimize performance. It sounds like a better way to fertilize corn is on the horizon.