Farming can be a hurry-up-and-wait profession sometimes, but when the snow melts and the sun comes out, things start moving quickly. Helping farmers get their spring soil fertility and crop nutrition nailed down is Ray Dowbenko’s specialty as an ag expert on AGvisorPRO.

Background in fertility and nutrition

Ray is an accomplished Senior Agronomist with soil and crop fertility expertise, and broad domestic, national and international experience. He is able to leverage his field expertise, along with his motivational and learning skills to translate complex processes to understandable and actionable steps. Ray’s experience is vast. He has a background in the construction and implementation of  domestic and international research programs to commercialize new products. He has proven his ability to support and grow existing and new markets, by utilizing his agronomic skills. Ray can also assist with agronomic market insights to meet financial goals and support merger and acquisition strategies. You’ll find Ray’s crop nutrition council to be pragmatic, yet innovative in soil fertility available to further your endeavours.

“As we move into the spring season of 2020, obviously lots of challenges. Things are moving around differently for different people.”

“Back in my younger days, we were growing 32 bushel hard-red-spring wheat, and 19 bushel canola and today we’re targeting 80-100 bushel wheat crops, and 60-70 bushel canola. We certainly have a higher volume of fertilizer to manage now.”

What comes after choosing a crop?

When a grower chooses which crop will be planted on a particular field, one of the very next questions they must answer is how much fertilizer to apply. This is when agronomists are deferring to data collected by soil testing. Testing gives agronomists an idea of what’s in the ground, which helps inform how much fertilizer will need to be applied throughout the season in order to maximize yield potentials and hit yield targets. Once a crop and a fertility program have been established, a grower and their agronomist will start considering more nuanced details such as fill time and seeding time. Getting a particular crop matched up with the best fertility possible is a multi-season, multi-crop puzzle. Growers must be thinking further seasons in advance to ensure they are doing everything possible to maximize the availability of nutrients to a given crop at a given time. 

“Growers need to think about their crop sequence to follow proper agronomic practices. Weeds, diseases, insects, but also past fertility practices and how they impact current crops.”

Phosphate application considerations and best practices

At the macro level, we’ve seen an overall draw-down of phosphate in our soils because of the ever-increasing acreage of canola, (today, over 20 million acres in Canada), as well and an in-flux of soybean production. Some crops are excellent scavengers of phosphate, while others simply aren’t. We understand that there is a lag between applied phosphate, and it’s availability to plants. This year’s crop could be looking for last year’s phosphate application, so thinking about good phosphate scavengers, like flax or soybeans, can be a great way to work around those phosphate limitations. However, if a grower is looking at planting canola, that can often mean fantastically high phosphate application rates- far too high for seed placement exclusively. We know that phosphate’s chemistry makes it less mobile in the soil, so applying it close to a plant’s root system is crucial, but crops like canola or peas are limited to 20 pounds of actual P205. Any higher, and the health of the seed can be compromised. Though higher rates are applied by some growers, those higher rates often come with germination issues. A great potential solution to this issue is side-banding phosphate, usually within 2 inches of the seed row. This is close enough to give the benefit of available phosphate, but far enough away to reduce the risk of problems.

Another way to mitigate risk with phosphate application is to apply it to a particular field during the cereal phase of a crop rotation. This is because cereal crops are typically more tolerant to high levels of phosphate placed in the seed-row. (up to 50 pounds combined P205 and potassium is acceptable).

Ray says that it’s a general rule that if a field drops below 20 pounds of actual phosphate in the top 6 inches of soil, the crop grown in that field is going to be penalized. For certain crops, once a soil test confirms phosphate levels are that low, applying additional phosphate won’t fulfill the plants needs like it would have if that field’s phosphate levels had been better managed through previous seasons.

There is no substitute for a detailed, multi-year fertility plan.

AGvisorPRO has this advice, and more

Phosphate is only one facet of a proper fertility program, with each facet being its own world of complexity and granular detail. The modern grower has to consider these details along with a mountain of other disciplines, in order to have a successful operation. One of the smartest things a grower can do is to find expertise and leverage it. AGvisorPRO offers growers a one-stop-shop for all kinds of agricultural expertise. 

“Growers have so much information at their fingertips. More information is good, but somebody still has to make a decision based on what they see.”

Ray is eager to be available through AGvisorPRO, and to help growers innovate in their soil fertility, and further their future endeavors. He sometimes feels there is a missing piece on our industry around new technologies like AGvisorPRO. Agriculture doesn’t just need companies that sell new technology to growers, rather they must also help growers integrate that technology into their operations. Ray is confident that the team behind AGvisorPRO knows how to leverage their technology to extract immense value from their Experts, and pass that value onto growers all over the world.