Agronomy Library > Soil Conservation

Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Placement
Author: Reduced Tillage LINKAGES
Date Created: March 25, 2002
Last Reviewed: February 01, 2007

Most of the soils in Alberta are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus, some isolated areas are also deficient in other nutrients such as potassium, sulfur, manganese, iron and copper.
Regardless of tillage system, adequate soil fertility is essential for profitable crop production and a good fertilizer management program starts with a soil test for nutrient requirements. This can be done either in the fall or early spring.
Don’t gamble on fertilizer rate--apply appropriate rates of nutrients based on soil test.
Nitrogen (N) Management
N is the most limiting factor in cereal and oil-seed production and therefore nitrogen management is the key to a successful fertilizer program in a direct seeding system.
N - Fertilizer – there are several sources of nitrogen fertilizer:
Anhydrous ammonia (NH3)
Ammonium nitrate (34-0-0)
Liquid nitrogen (28-0-0)
Urea (46-0-0)
Openers and injection system--several openers and injection systems are available for the adequate and consistent placement of seed and fertilizer. Choose an opener suited to your fertilizer management program. Click here for more information on openers. Some of the commonly used openers are:

Bourgault Paired Row
Morris Side Bend
Noble Seed-O-Vator
Bourgault Side Bend
Flexi-Coil Inter Row shank
Harmon Paired Row
Morris Paired Row
Flexi-Coil Paired Row stealth
Flexi-Coil Side Band stealth
Fertilizer placement--in a direct seeding system, nitrogen fertilizer is usually applied in fall or spring by banding . Here is the Soil Fertility Guide. Some of the commonly used fertilizer placement methods are:
  • Seed-placed Fertilizer (Single Shoot) – Granular or liquid fertilizer is placed with the seed. This is an efficient means of fertilizer placement, but attention to rates must be given to avoid seedling damage.
  • Side banding (Double Shoot) – One pass seeding and fertilizer operation, where fertilizer is placed 1 – 2 inches beside and below the seed. Seed is placed in a single row or in a paired row on either side of the fertilizer band. High rates of fertilizer can be applied with minimal damage to germinating seedlings.
  • Mid-row banding – Fertilizer is placed using a separate knife, disc or coulters to place fertilizer every second seed row at seeding time. This is also an efficient method of nitrogen placement without risk to emerging seedlings.
  • Pre-seed deep banding (fall or spring) - This method places the fertilizer below the soil surface in a band behind a shank at a depth of 3 to 6 inches. This is also an efficient method of N fertilizer placement as it avoids the seed bed problem commonly associated with double shooting.
Speed – most openers work best at 5 mph.
Phosphorus (P) Management
Adequate levels of phosphorus in the soil are also critical for crop production. Phosphorus does not move much in the soil profile. In direct seeding systems, phosphorus is less available because of cooler temperatures, therefore, addition of more phosphorus and/or more effective placement and timing are needed. Phosphorus can be effectively applied by seed placement with the seed in a band near the seed. Click here for more information on phosphorus management.

Potassium (K) Management - K is also essential for optimum yields, however, most of the soils in Alberta are not deficient in K with the exception of some isolated areas with high rainfall and sandy soils. If the soil test calls for K, it can be banded or seed placed. For more information on potassium click here