New fertilizer guidelines a win-win: More profit, cleaner water

Farmers in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana now have updated guidelines to use when it comes to fertilizing their field crops—and their profits and everyone’s water quality stand to gain.

Revised for the first time in 25 years, the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa were developed by scientists from all three states and are based on on-farm research there.

Harold Watters, team member and CFAES agronomy field specialist, said, “The biggest and most surprising fact we saw is that crops today are more efficient at producing a bushel of grain with less nutrients than they were in the past.”

That’s important, because applying proper nutrient amounts—not too little, not too much—is key both to yields and to keeping water clean. Runoff of excess phosphorus, for instance, is a cause of Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms.

Steve Culman, team leader and soil fertility scientist with CFAES, said, “If everyone follows this document, we’ll have better water quality. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

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