Fertilizers are so well known to improve yield potential. Since WWII, farmers have applied commercial and/or organic products to grow crops. Research has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that additions of nutrients before and during crop growth yield multiple times better than without.

Over the last 60-plus we have seen yields in corn more than quadruple, now over 160 bushels per acre or 10.4T/ha.

In more recent studies as many of you have read in trade magazines, seen for yourselves, heard at conferences or field days that broadcast fertilizer methods are not always the best bet for your fertility programs. 

Runoff issues, hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico or Chesapeake Bay, algae growth in Lake Erie, contaminated water supplies in surface supplies and wells, numerous cities concerneaabout their supplies due to nitrogen runoff or subterranean flows — all of these issues are aimed at less than stellar agricultural use. Research is demonstrating we have better methods of fertilizing commercial fertilizers as well as organic products by getting those nutrients in the ground.

Stepping into tillage research efforts, we at Orthman also are studying the effect of precision placement of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and other fertilizer right at the Orthman Research Proving Grounds near Lexington, Neb.

We have partnered with 16 other institutions to carry out cooperative research across the United States and 8 of these are looking closely at fertilizer placement. 

In my research reading I came across findings from the University of Missouri-Columbia (P.R. Nash et al 2013) where they said with pre-?plant strip-?tilled polymer coated urea products applied, showed significant yield response in corn 12 to 14% over non-?coated urea. Furthermore, the Missouri researchers observed strip-till precision placement methods increased yields 26 to 36% over broadcast applications of the coated and un-coated urea products.  They noted that strip-?till placement of polymer coated urea products could offer a solid option as a fall applied nitrogen compared to anhydrous ammonia for growers.

Scientists at the University of Illinois (Fernandez, Schaefer and Greer) conducted studies (2007- 2010) strip-?till compared to direct seeding and broadcast systems of fertilizing of corn and reported in 2012 that yields improved by 13 bushels per acre when precision placement was accomplished in the same location multiple years.  The strip-?tilled deep placed nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium average for 2008 and 2010 were 7 bushels per acre more than the noâ€?tilled corn. While their studies they did not see a significant yield result due to the interaction of tillage and placement; they felt it was due to a tillage effect.In the odd years (2009 & 2011) they rotated into soybeans and saw a small increase of 2 bushels per acre with stripâ€?tilled deep placed nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, compared to a no-?till system.

Another review research paper in the Journal of Agriculture and Allied Sciences, “Placement of Nutrients in Soil: A Review”(Radika, Hemalatha, Maragatham, and Praveena) wrote that from multiple research projects showed precision of deep placed phosphorus/potassium products increases early to midâ€?season growth in maize but no significant yield response in grain with soils high in potassium.

Their research determined that several field studies are finding that crop health, leaf tissue analyses show phosphorus and potassium concentration is up with deep placed nutrients but no statistical significant yield bumps.

These same researchers noted in their findings of a Canadian journal that deep banding ofpotassium did offer great yield benefits for grain sorghum.

Dr. Tony Vyn at Purdue University reported recently (2012) that deep banding of potassium in strip�till does give yield response compared to deep banding in mulch tillage (chisel-?disc system).

Our field research in continuous corn plots show that 2009 through 2013 with deep banding N-?P-?K-?S-?Zn we are improving yields compared to no-?till banded shallow, as follows: 2009 ST 13 to 19% better yield than no-?till, in 2010 strip-till 7.5% to 19% above no-till, 2011 strip-till was 6 to  18% improvement over no-till, in 2012 strip-till was 5 to 17% better yield than no-till, and in 2013 we were 4 to 11.5% higher yield than no-till. In continuous irrigated corn we are consistently improved with deep, precision placed nutrients for the past 5 years. It is our observation and studies that tell us there is a tillage and fertility interaction with the silty clay loam soils of South Central Nebraska.

We believe accurate and positive placement of fertility, especially phosphorus and potassium offer ingredients for yield improvement, cost savings, and more. Our methodology is to apply a prescription based N-?P-?K-?S-?Zn package in two locations below the seed.

Return with RTK guidance over the strip with an “in-?furrow” at planting time, low salt high quality product of N-P-K-S and micros to set the plants potential at a higher plain.

The more I just spoke of; a larger root mass developed, better distribution of soil organic matter, better nutrient efficiency of the plant on the whole due to generally soils are moist longer during the growing season, and more capacity to feed the photosynthetic factory which results in grain yield.

We know most growers see it all about the top yield when they purchase and apply nutrient products, we think it is more than just that.  Did you spend your money wisely and get the most out of the products you applied?

Our team believes positioning the nutrient package has so much potential to drive yield up compared to the older method of broadcast. We submit, knowing that roots grow downward, pulled by gravity, warming soil temperatures, and moisture levels in the soil profile all demand a closer look and thought process how we should feed our crops.

This year, can be the year we all fertilize with a better precision mentality. Look into placement, the process works.


Radhika, Hemalatha, Maragatham & Praveena, 2013. Placement of Nutrients in Soil: A Review., Journal of Agriculture and Allied Sciences, Vol.2, Issue 2, April-?June 2013 Fernandez, Schaefer & Greer, 2012.

Evaluation of Phosphorus and Potassium Fertility For Strip-Tillage and No-?Tillage Corn-?Soybean Cropping Systems.,IFCA Proceedings Winter 2013 Nash, Nelson & Motavalli, 2012. Corn yield response to polymer and non-coated urea placement and timings; International Journal of Plant Production 7 (3), July 2013