p nutrient loss

The fall season provides an excellent opportunity for applying some base fertilizers in preparation for the next growing season, especially when weather is as favorable as it has been this year. While using this time period allows us to maximize our efficiency and reduce our spring season workload, it also exposes us to potential nutrient loss through many avenues. As stewards of the land, we need to be aware of any potential danger areas and do our best to mitigate any nutrient losses.

Prime areas for winter-time nutrient loss are:

  • Areas of concentrated water flow
  • Drainage tile breaks
  • Ditch-bank erosion
  • High soil test levels

Watch for areas on your farm that water runs across in periods of heavy rain. Water will also flow here during rapid melting events which we typically experience here in Southwestern Ontario. Where possible, slow down the water flow with filter strips, grass waterways or living cover crops. This will allow any nutrients to settle out of the water before it leaves your field.

Broken tiles and ditch-bank erosion sites can provide direct access for nutrients and soil to be carried away into our ditches and lakes. Watch for areas of sunken soil or gullies forming, and repair broken drains as soon as they are discovered.

Soils that have low infiltration rates are at much greater risk of nutrient loss from run-off. Protect these soils by using cover crops, or maintaining a higher level of crop residue on the soil surface.

You’ve made a significant investment in your soil by using a favorable fall season to apply fertilizer. Protect that investment and your future crop’s potential by being vigilant against nutrient loss this winter.