P & K: Essential nutrients to help farmers minimise risk

Read how Phosphate (P) and Potassium (K) are essential nutrients to increase yield and health of arable crops, helping farmers minimise risk.

November 1, 2022
2 mins
Scott Garnett
England, UK

With ever more frequent severe weather conditions coupled with a greater opportunity with higher output prices, now is not the time to risk crop yield or quality by cutting back on essential key nutrients, such as phosphate and potash, according to ICL.

The importance of Phosphate.

Phosphate has a vital role in crop nutrition from stimulating root development to an essential ingredient in photosynthesis (see fig 1). To make the most from an application, ICL UK Agronomist Scott Garnett, recommends using at the planting stage:

Starter fertilisers containing water-soluble phosphorus are much more likely to increase crop establishment and growth, particularly early in the life cycle. The proven benefits of applying at planting are increased quality and yield.”

Managing risk

A range of proven options exist to help minimise crop losses. However, prevention is always better than cure. Recent years have seen increased frequency of difficult weather conditions including extreme wet or dry conditions along with extended periods of abnormally cold or hot weather. All pose additional risks that can be avoided by taking measures to reduce potential damage to yield and profitability.

The key to reducing stress is to ensure that adequate reserves of readily available phosphate and potash are in the soil, to help crops cope under difficult conditions.

For example, in wet autumns when cereals and rape may be drilled into poorer seedbeds, it is essential to encourage early root growth.  Applying phosphate to the seedbed, or by combine drilling, will ensure sufficient phosphate is available to ensure good crop establishment.

P&K holiday risks

Many of the arable areas in England now show that more P is removed at harvest than is applied. This leads to potential deficiency. Both P and Potassium (K) levels need to be at Index 2 to insure against stress risks and to give crops the best chance against unpredictable weather conditions.

While fertiliser input costs may have increased, so has the value of the harvested crops. Rather than cutting back, farmers should insure themselves against the risk of crop failure.

Top tips:

  1. Have soil tested (nutrient status and pH).
  2. Apply P+K in the seed bed as insurance against extreme conditions during the growing season.
  3. Always use a reliable, quality fertiliser.