What Does Soil Nutrients Do For Your Crops?

January 9, 2020

Soil nutrition is very important for us to grow healthy and productive crops. In our November blog, we recommended growers to have your soil sampling done this fall, so now that you have had that done, let us dive into why we need the nutrients that you tested for.

There are 17 nutrients that are essential for plant health. Yield optimization can only be achieved when there is an ample supply of all 17 nutrients. These 17 nutrients are divided out into 4 categories; macronutrients, secondary nutrients, micronutrients and non-fertilizer elements. Let’s look at why each nutrient is needed.


  1. Nitrogen (N) – is essential for plant growth and is part of every living cell.  N is necessary for chlorophyll syntheses which utilizes sunlight as its source of energy, photosynthesis. Through this process the energy produced will help in nutrient uptake and protein content in the plant.
  2. Phosphorus (P) – Since N helps capture the suns energy, P will convert that energy into useful plant compounds. P is essential for the general health and vigor of plants. P promotes root development, early seedling growth, stalk strength and improves flower formation/seed production.
  3. Potassium (K) – K is vital to photosynthesis. K is essential in nearly all processes needed to sustain plant growth and reproduction. K builds cellulose and reduces lodging. Maintains turgor, reduces water loss and will be more tolerant towards high and low temps. K helps fight off diseases and pests such as nematodes.

Secondary Nutrients:

  1. Magnesium (Mg) – acts as a phosphorus carrier in plants and is required for better root formation and thus for better nutrient and water efficiency in plants. Rule of thumb is it may be desirable to maintain the soil Ca-to-Mg ratio about 10 to 1.
  2. Sulfur (S) – appears in every living cell. S is important for winter crop hardiness.  Leguminous plants need S for efficient nitrogen fixation. S is important in the nitrate-reductase process, during which nitrate-nitrogen is converted to amino acids.
  3. Calcium (Ca) – helps form the compounds that make up part of cell walls, which strengthen the plant structure. Ca improves root growth and stimulates microbial activity. Ca enables N-fixing bacteria to form nodules on roots. The very existence of plants and animals depends on Ca. 


  1. Boron (B) – improves seed set under stressful conditions. B is a component of all cell walls.
  2. Chlorine (Cl) – regulates stomata release of moisture and minimizes water loss.
  3. Manganese (Mn) – accelerates germination and maturity while increasing the availability of P and Ca.
  4. Iron (Fe) – is a component of many enzymes associated with energy transfer, nitrogen reduction and fixation, and lignin formation.
  5. Nickel (Ni) – is a component of the urease enzyme and is, therefore, necessary for the conversion of urea to ammonia (NH3) in plant tissue, making it important in plant N metabolism.
  6. Copper (Cu) – activates enzymes and catalyzes reactions in several plant-growth processes.
  7. Zinc (Zn) – although it is required in small amounts, high yields are impossible without it. Zn transforms carbohydrates and regulates sugars.
  8. Molybdenum (Mo) – optimizes plant growth. Helps metabolize N.

Non-fertilizer elements:

  1. Hydrogen (H) – necessary for building sugars and other molecules to produce glucose for plant energy.
  2. Carbon (C) – is the primary energy source and building block for plant tissues.
  3. Oxygen (O) – is responsible for cellular respiration in plants.

Make sure you are getting a complete soil test analysis that will give you a value on most of these nutrients.

As you can see, most of these nutrients are needed together in making plants as healthy and productive as possible. When your agronomist talks about a balanced soil, plant nutrition along with plant health; I hope you have a better understanding how to achieve your yield goals.

-Stuart Carlson, Northern Product Agronomist

Sources: Mosaic Company Website Nutrient Knowledge

Categories: soil, soil sampling     Comments: 0    

Get Your Soil Sampling Done This Fall

November 22, 2019

The Midwest has recently experienced a massive blast of cold weather from the north the week of November 11. Fortunately, warmer weather has returned, harvest is finishing up and field work has been getting done in many areas. Getting the discing, strip tilling, and ripping done is a good feeling but when the equipment is back in the shed for the year we need to get one more project completed - soil sampling! There are a few ways to manage soil sampling depending on how much you want to invest and how much time you have before winter sets in and the ground freezes.  The two best options would be to do it yourself based on management zones or hire someone to grid sample.

You can either hire someone to collect soil samples or you can do it yourself. If you are well acquainted with a particular piece of dirt, you can save yourself some money and get quality soil samples yourself. All you need is a shovel, bucket, paper lunch bags, and a pen. For example, a grower that has been farming a particular farm for many years and is well aware of areas in the field which are excellent, fair, and poor (sloped, level, rocky, fertile, drained, wet, etc.) These are called management units. This farmer has established 5 management units (3 to 6 recommended) on this field because of previous knowledge of his farm. The farmer takes 15 random soil samples to a depth of 8 inches in one management unit with his shovel, mixes them together in his bucket, then labels and fills one paper bag with that soil sample. This process is duplicated across all management units, and bags are then sent to the nearest laboratory for analysis and fertilizer recommendation.

For more precise soil samples, grid sampling can be done to provide better information on soil variability throughout a field.  Many growers are reluctant to spend many hours getting down and dirty in a field to grid sample the entire field with 1-acre samples. Who can blame them as this is a tedious process which requires an elaborate computer program, a handheld GPS unit, and pulling many soil cores which a farmer would rather let an agronomist do.  Grid sampling done for optimum accuracy includes 1-acre samples, 2.5-acre samples are acceptable, and 4-acre grid samples are done at more economical prices with reasonable results. When a grid sample is done, 5-8 core samples should be pulled at 6-8 inches per sample. This data can provide a good map for many years; 10 – 20 years for organic matter and CEC; 5 – 10 years for pH; and 5 years for P, K, and Zinc. Include these grid samples into a GPS unit, along with previous years yield data, to create a precise fertilization and planting population program to maximize yield and efficiency on a farm.

The way you get the sample isn’t near as important as getting the sample. Soil samples will let us know what nutrients we are short on including Phosphorus, Zinc, Sulfur, Potassium, and many more depending on where your farm is located. Soil samples will also tell us pH so we know whether or not lime is needed to correct low pH issues. Get your soil sampling done while the weather is nice and spend the cold winter months coming up with a fertilizer plan to maximize profitability next summer with Hoegemeyer products. Contact your local Hoegemeyer DSM or Agronomist with any questions.

-Craig Langemeier, Western Product Agronomist

Categories: soil sampling     Comments: 0