Choosing The Right Liquid Fertilizer Applicator For Your Crops

Right Liquid Fertilizer Applicator For Your Crops

Boosting lawns, gardens, and field crops with suitable water-soluble fertilizers is essential for healthy plants. However, achieving excellent results takes more than just applying the fertilizer evenly to your soil.

The type of fertilizer you choose—granular or liquid—also matters. Here’s how to choose the best liquid fertilizer applicator for your specific needs:

Soil Test

Whether you use solid or liquid fertilizer, performing a soil test is the best way to optimize your nutrient application. If you skip this step, your application rates will be based on guesswork instead of the proven science behind them.

When sampling for a soil test, it’s best to collect a sample from multiple areas of each available crop unit (flower beds, vegetable gardens, shrub borders, fruit orchards, and lawns) and combine the results for analysis. Avoiding unconventional areas such as wet spots, feeding areas, burn piles, and old fence rows is also essential.

Once the lab has your soil samples, they’ll be tested to determine the pH, fertility level, and nutrient availability. This information will help to make a complete nutrient management program for your fields that will optimize crop yield and economic return. The program will include soil amendments to address nutrient imbalances and the right fertilizer mix.

pH Levels

When using a liquid fertilizer applicator to apply nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium (NPK) to crops, the solution should have the same pH as the soil. Otherwise, the nutrient levels could become unbalanced and negatively affect plant health. The best way to ensure this is by following the nutrient manufacturers’ guidelines on mixing and prepping your nutrient solution.

The desired pH range for optimum crop growth varies between crops. However, most plants grow well in slightly acidic to neutral soil conditions ranging from 5.5 to 7.0.

Soil pH is affected by the decomposition of organic matter, leaching of basic cations held in soil colloids, rainwater (naturally acidic), and biological nitrification of ammonium into nitrate. Soil pH can also be impacted by the presence of aluminum in the soil. Soil pH can be modified by applying limestone to raise pH or sulfur to lower it. This should be done before applying any fertilizer.

NPK Balance

All plants need macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK), but how much each plant needs depends on its soil conditions. That’s why it is essential to start with a soil test before applying fertilizer and to use the recommended rates as listed on the label.

Each type of fertilizer has a different NPK balance, which you can quickly determine by looking at the three conspicuous numbers on its label. The first number is nitrogen concentration, the second is phosphorus, and the third is potassium.

A fertilizer with a higher nitrogen concentration will promote leafy growth, while a higher phosphorus concentration will encourage root and flower development. For instance, tomato and pepper crops need extra phosphorus at the onset of fruiting. Other crops, such as sweet corn, will benefit from additional nitrogen once tassels appear. A good source of phosphorus is worm castings, which are readily available as a natural fertilizer.

Application Rate

Application rates are essential to consider when choosing a liquid fertilizer applicator. These rates are usually given in pounds of a particular chemical per acre. Ensure your fertilizer has the proper nutrients for your crop, or you might damage it.

A nutrient application rate that is too low can cause damage to your crops, while one that is too high can also cause harm to them. You must find the best application rate and placement balance when using a liquid fertilizer applicator.

A sensor-based variable rate fertilizer applicator can help you optimize your crop yield and reduce the environmental impact of field production. However, it is essential to understand that the rate aspect of variable rate fertilization must be considered along with source, placement, and irrigation management as part of a complete fertilizer best management practice. This is important because the soil test results may suggest a specific application rate. Still, other factors could cause a difference in the amount of fertilizer your crops need.

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