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Farming Begins in the Soil: Phosphorus

Farming Begins in the Soil: Phosphorus

Proper management of phosphorus applications is key for optimizing profit potential, as well as water quality

Phosphorus applications – in what form they go down and when – are specific to the region, soil type and crop need.

Continuous improvement on every acre that is both profitable and sustainable is something we discuss regularly. When it comes to phosphorus, we have more work to do on elevating this macronutrient in farmers’ minds and helping them to ensure their applications are efficient. Our waterways depend on it.

Much like any aspect of farm management, the many intricacies of managing phosphorus lack any one-size-fits-all solution, but sustainability practices have long-term payoff that can reduce phosphorus runoff, increase fertilizer use efficiency and contribute to higher yields.

Listen to episode three of the Groundswell podcast. 



Interview Highlights

Managing phosphorus requires an understanding of what’s already available, both organically and inorganically. Jim Gulliford, executive director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, discusses factors of phosphorus availability and where the industry can move forward to improve soil health. With more than 30 years of professional experience administering natural resource protection programs in agriculture, Jim has dedicated his career to promoting the art and science of natural resource conservation. To learn more about the Soil and Water Conservation Society, visit

Based out of Omaha, Neb., Midwest Laboratories serves clients nationwide, analyzing soil, water, plants, manure and fertilizer. Tim Mundorf, precision ag specialist and field representative with Midwest Laboratories, discusses soil science in its three categories: chemical, biological and physical. As a field representative, Tim serves Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. Learn more about the soil tests Tim recommended for understanding phosphorus at

Ben Hushon, certified crop adviser and partner at The Mill, works with farmers in the watershed area of the Chesapeake Bay. From Maryland, Ben discusses farmers’ perceptions on nutrient use efficiency. In 2016, The Mill became the first business to utilize the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN program in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Visit for more information about The Mill and farmers in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Tom Bruulsema, Ph.D., is an agronomic scientist and phosphorus program director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), a non-profit research and education organization. IPNI develops and promotes scientific information on responsible management of plant nutrition. Tom played a key role in the development of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship concept and co-edited the IPNI 4R Plant Nutrition manual, and recently published research that helps define a precision approach to phosphorus applications. To read about Tom’s research, visit, or to access the NuGIS platform mentioned in his interview, visit

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