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Late Season Soil Improvements and Nutritional Preparation

By Ferticell®

Any experienced grower is familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s phrase, “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” This mirrors another from Winston Churchill who said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail,” in agriculture, these statements ring truer than ever.

To replenish soils in today’s economy, in a commercial setting, growers are faced with a myriad of problems from high salt fertilizers to a lack of the required water needed to feed an ever-growing population. Growers should be planning for this now and looking to find economical practices that will directly impact soil status for their following season’s crop.

It is important to know that there are sustainable options and practices out there that will interact with the natural ecosystem and have a direct impact on several critical elements. This will enhance the effectiveness of inputs applied and the condition of the soil. 

Sunset over a corn field


The need to improve efficiency in agriculture is a goal as old as agriculture itself. From Mayans and Egyptians inventing canal systems to Blass patenting the drip system with Netafin back in 1964, agriculture is dedicated to improvement. There is no better place to start for a grower than with their soil. Building soil carbon improves its quality by providing structure along with storing water and nutrients that are essential for plant life and microbial life.

In the quest for improved efficiency, soil testing is critical to success. The measurements and adjustments made to the Carbon: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium ratios are the key indicators to building better soil performance. These forms have very different effects on soil composition, plant development, and carbon sequestration.  Growers should use the natural ecosystem already in place and verify these carbon relationships. Physical soil characteristics and biomass activity are optimal.


The options for potassium nutrition are limited since most naturally occurring materials are supplied by only a few northern hemisphere countries, such as Canada and Russia. However, there may be opportunities for natural minerals such as silicates that may supply a source of potassium.

Because microbial life has the beneficial effect of allowing soils to absorb K from other minerals, such as silicates, it must be tested. Each soil exam should include silicates. The advantages include soil energy efficiencies, low salt content, and a reasonable source for one of the most important cation nutrients.

Potassium is the highest regulated of all macronutrients in living organisms. Cellular water efficiency and improved tolerances to abiotic and biotic stress are two of the many roles Potassium plays in plant growth. Optimal K levels improve drought resistance, promote root growth, lessen wilting caused by water evaporation, and are another layer of defense against disease.

The building and storage of carbohydrates may be the most desired function of Potassium in all perennial plants. This is one of many reasons why late season availability for potassium is critical to optimally yielding results, along with improved soil health. The long-distance transport for K supply, as well as cellular uptake, will make a notable difference.


While potassium is very phloem mobile, it is important to understand that K requires proteins to facilitate that movement. Potassium always benefits plant-water relations. It acts as an enzyme activator, influencing the efficiency of photosynthesis, CO2 assimilation, and ATP production.

ATP, or Adenosine triphosphate, is essentially produced by the light energy that is captured by the plant through photosynthesis. This acts as a universal energy factor within all plant and animal life processes including controlling metabolisms, transporting nutrients, and gene expression.

Potassium Efficiency

Subject to disruptions from other cations, such as sodium and magnesium, the potassium source should be considered when few to no limiting factors from process mining or production practices are present. In certain situations, production practices may come into play to increase solubility but decrease overall potassium efficiency. These situations should be closely evaluated.

When the budget allows, it is essential to provide a plant-derived source of carbon, amino acids, and a micronutrient package that has a focus on boron. K+ efficiency is optimized by combining these elements with a potassium source with little to no limiting factors such as sulfates, hydroxides, chlorides, or nitrates.

Energy mechanisms for finishing the crop before harvest can greatly benefit from a rotational application schedule of potassium/phosphorus and potassium/micronutrients. It is equally important to include a plant-based L-amino acid package that is complete. L-amino acids are not to be confused with D-amino acids, which are L-amino acids that have been converted to D-amino acids through a process called racemization. This action is primarily represented in fish hydrolysates and other animal byproduct fertilizers that advertise an amino acid content.

“During the acid hydrolysis, some amino acids like tryptophan, cysteine, serine, and threonine are partially or totally destroyed and many other amino acids are converted from the L-form to D-form (racemization) thus losing their biological activity.”

Colla et al., 2015a

Sponsored Content

Ferticell offers a full line of soil and nutritional inputs for late season applications. We highly encourage you to think soil first when considering a micronutrient package like Microelements™ or an organic potassium fertilizer like Pro K™ 0-0-20, which is a tremendous tank mix partner and is readily plant-available at low rates to stay within your budget. Pro K™ works extremely well when paired with Nutri-Plus™, giving the grower 19 of 20 essential l-amino acids as mentioned above.