Building High Plant Fertility
Crop Growth & Development
Field Management

Key takeaways: 

  • To maximize crop performance, farmers need to ensure their plants can access all the available nutrients in the soil. 
  • AgriGold testing has shown that a 2×2 spreading system for liquid fertilizer led to higher phosphorus uptake in corn plants.
  • There’s a strong correlation between higher nutrient concentration and better yields during harvest.

For over 50 years, commercial application of macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) has been a crucial part of farmers’ plans. However, crops can’t always access those nutrients in the soil. It’s challenging for farmers to ensure plants get access to all the necessary nutrients throughout their life cycle. 

But according to AgriGold Agronomy Manager Josh Johnston, farmers can maximize their crops’ nutrient uptake — and yields — with the right fertilizer strategy.


Hybrids are built differently these days. Even just 10 years ago, it was common for high yields to come from high kernel count alone. Now, hybrids make their yield on kernel weight over count. 

For example, 7 to10 years ago, an ear producing 90,000 kernels per bushel could have reached the same yield as an ear today that only has 60,000 kernels per bushel. 

AgriGold Hybrids



Kernels pack on most of their weight at the very end of the life cycle, after ear girth and length are established. To achieve the desired weight gain, farmers need to precisely time their harvest and strategize how to help crops access the available nutrition in the final days in the field. 

If a crop isn’t finishing well, it’s likely not taking advantage of the weight added at the beginning of the life cycle. Corn is healthy and packing on kernel weight until black layer. Premature death of just three days can result in a 12% reduction in yield. Heat, dry conditions, and disease can also kill weight at the end of the season. 

Late-season fungicide applications can help control disease. This is a simple variable growers can control. Some fields may need just one application, while others may need more to help the corn stay in the field and pack on weight.

Nitrogen is also a popular macronutrient for the end of the season, and it’s simple for farmers to plan a late-season application. 

This can all help boost soil health and get crops access to the nutrients they need through harvest.


Inputs of any kind come with environmental considerations. How can farmers ensure that what they put on their fields actually stays on the fields — and that crops utilize it as efficiently as possible? With that in mind, Johnston wondered when the value of applied phosphorus and potassium maximize, and at what rate.

In a single test location in 2018, the AgriGold team applied 1,000 pounds of phosphorus and potassium to a controlled environment, then tested the soil and tissue vigorously throughout the year. These tests showed extremely high rates of the two nutrients in the soil — but the crop showed no marked increase in concentrations. 

When samples were collected from the same plot five years later, the P&K concentration in both soil and tissue were maximized and over-performing. Unlocking the benefits of the massive spread from five years prior got Johnston thinking – we know how to get the nutrients into the soil, but what can we do to pull them into the plant sooner? 


AgriGold Fertility Placement Study

Even when available in the soil, phosphorus and potassium are difficult to get into a corn plant. Traditional dry fertilizer provides nutrients for the soil, but produces rather low yield results within the crop year it’s spread, making it hard to calculate annual ROI. Meanwhile, liquid options like 10-34-0 are salty enough to burn roots when applied in-furrow in large quantities.

A 2×2 spreading system can help combat these issues by spreading liquid fertil

izer in higher quantities, adjacent to the furrow rather than directly on the freshly sown seed. Johnston’s team found vastly higher rates of phosphorus uptake in the plant tissue and huge yield improvements when spreading 2×2 and 2x2x0.



AgriGold nutrition by bushel

Finding ways to force the soil to release nutrients into the plant is a huge step to unlock higher yields. Studies from soil labs prove disparities in nutrients within soil compared to what crops can actually access. Even releasing tiny percentages of what’s locked within the soil can be a game changer for high yields. 

For now, Johnston reminds farmers of the importance of nutrient uptake to harvest results: “The end goal is always more bushels when the combine comes across,” he says. “But AgriGold’s thousands of tissue samples give us the ability to measure beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a correlation between yield and nutrient concentration.” 

Contact your AgriGold representative today to find out how to maximize yields by unlocking the nutrients within soil.