Freeing phosphorus: New ways to add crop nutrient availability
An innovative option makes broadcast crop nutrient applications more available.
Farmers wouldn’t be satisfied with just 20 percent weed control from a herbicide application, but that’s typically the best nutrient availability they can expect from dry phosphate fertilizer applications.
“Under the best soil conditions, only one-fifth of applied phosphorus may be available to the crop throughout the season,” says Steve Carlsen, Levesol and crop enhancement manager, CHS Agronomy. “Availability is even less when soil pH levels are too high or too low or in soils that contain too little organic matter.”
The remaining 80 percent of unused phosphorus doesn’t help fuel yield and can be susceptible to loss through runoff or soil erosion, he says. Effects have been documented in lower Chesapeake Bay tributaries on the East Coast and in the Lake Erie watershed, which includes portions of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
In many of those areas, phosphorus application regulations and management strategies have been adopted or are being discussed and other states may join the list, says Carlsen.
“The good news is that growers have a new tool to help maximize phosphorus efficiency in their fields,” says Carlsen. “Trivar™ fertilizer additive was developed specifically for use on dry phosphate fertilizers for broadcast applications.”
Carlsen says broadcast application of phosphates is used on about 10 times more acres than in-furrow phosphorus applications are used. “CHS Agronomy created Trivar to be applied to dry phosphate forms used for fall or spring applications, including DAP, MAP, triple superphosphate and other sources.”
Soil pH, organic matter levels and cation exchange capacity are the three main factors that impact phosphorus availability, he says. “Those soil characteristics aren’t easily changed.”
Until now, three short-term solutions have been most effective for maximizing phosphorus availability to the crop while committing to improved fertility practices:
- In-furrow applications that place fertilizer close to the seed and developing roots
- Prescriptive applications that tailor rates to soil needs and yield potential
- Applications based on the 4Rs: right source, right rate, right time and right place
“Using Trivar means one small change in the handling process at the retailer before application can significantly improve phosphorus efficiency,” Carlsen says.
Trivar uses three key modes of action to improve phosphorus availability for better plant nutrition.
1. The Levesol chelate prevents micronutrients from binding with phosphorus in the soil, making key micronutrients and phosphorus more available for plant uptake. It is an ortho-ortho EDDHA chelate known as one of the strongest and most effective chelating agents available. The chelate works with a wide range of soil pH levels, organic matter levels and cation exchange capacity levels, says Carlsen. “This allows Trivar to be effective across a wide variety of soil types and conditions.”
“Levesol is a proven technology that’s been used as an in-furrow application for more than 18 years,” he adds. “With Trivar, we are able to make its benefits available for more growers using broadcast applications.”
2. A nutrient-focused enzyme (phosphatase) converts plant-unavailable organic phosphorus to a readily plant-available inorganic form. The enzyme starts working immediately to free up unavailable phosphorus in the soil.
3. Zinc and boron in Trivar improve use of important micronutrients to boost overall plant nutrition. Zinc drives critical plant growth and development, while boron promotes root growth and helps regulate calcium, magnesium and potassium in the plants, Carlsen explains.
Last season’s challenging growing conditions allowed the value of Trivar to shine, says Carlsen. In third-party and university replicated corn trials in Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Arkansas fields, when phosphate fertilizer treated with Trivar was broadcast before planting, yield increased by an average of 6 bushels per acre over fields that received the same phosphate application without Trivar.
“Any yield increase beyond a few bushels per acre provided a positive return on investment, and most growers saw yield bumps well above that,” he says.
In northeast Nebraska, Jared Jessen, agronomy sales manager for CHS Wausa, reports growers using Trivar for the first time saw average yield increases of 6 bushels per acre, with some fields adding as much as 8 bushels per acre, depending on pH and other contributing factors.
Jessen says there were other benefits as well. “Plants had deeper color throughout the growing season, which is typically a sign of good plant health, and we saw improved stalk strength at harvest.”
Wausa, Neb., farmer Neal Seagren used Trivar-treated MAP on all his corn acres in 2019 and saw a 5- to 6-bushels-per-acre yield increase. “We had noticeably better root development compared to plants of the same hybrid from a neighboring field that didn’t use Trivar.
“I think that was especially important in late-planted corn,” he adds. “Our last corn acres were planted the first week of June, but still yielded around 230 bushels per acre dryland.”
This season Seagren plans to use Trivar on his soybean acres, as well. “With current crop prices and tight margins, every bushel counts.”
Jessen recommends adding Trivar first for cornfields with the greatest variability. “I think at least 80 percent of acres where MAP is applied would see a good payback.”
Environmental benefits are definitely on growers’ minds, too, Jessen says. “There’s already a lot of scrutiny of nitrogen use, and phosphate use will be next here. This is a great tool for helping to reduce runoff, as well as making a farmer’s fertilizer investment more efficient.”
LEARN MORE: Get details at trivarfertilizer.com.