farmers continue to enjoy record yields, researchers are warning that
nutrient removal is now outpacing nutrient application, a trend which
could soon hit growers’ bottom lines.
These are the findings of an exclusive eKonomics nutrient balance
analysis, which recently collected USDA harvest records and manure
application data, along with the Association of American Plant Food
Control Officials (AAPFCO) fertilizer consumption reports.
“Ultimately, Nebraska farmers may find themselves victims of their own
success,” said Robert Mullen, Ph.D., Director of Agronomy at Nutrien.
“Thanks to recent bumper crops, growers here are removing nutrients
faster than they are applying them.”
Since 1975, the potassium balance in Nebraska has dropped from a 37
pounds-per-acre deficit to a 57 pounds-per-acre deficit. Meanwhile,
the phosphorus balance removal is at a steady 14 pounds-per-acre
“This is a significant swing, which if not corrected will lead to more
Nebraska soils falling below the critical level for these critical
nutrients,” Mullen stated.
Today, 9 percent of Nebraska soils already fall below the critical
level for potassium, while nearly 35 percent are deficient in
“The big takeaway here is-it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense
of security when yields have been so good,” Mullen said. “But if
you’re not replenishing the soil at levels that match harvests, it’s
not a question of if your bottom line will be impacted, but when. And
that applies to everyone. Whether you’re renting for one year or have
owned and operated the land for decades.”
“There’s no escaping the math. When nutrient balance trends go down,
farmer profits ultimately go down too,” said Mullen.