New Web tools help producers with fertilizer, herbicide and water choices |

New Web tools help producers with fertilizer, herbicide and water choices

MSU News Service
Montana State University Extension cropping systems specialist
Kent McVay |

BOZEMAN, MT – A free Web-based tool to convert soil-report data into fertilizer recommendations and another to help producers make herbicide choices have joined a crop variety selection tool MSU Extension launched earlier this year. In addition, Yellowstone Valley producers will find a new water use tool helpful in calculating water use by irrigated crops.

The fertilizer, herbicide and variety tools developed by Kent McVay, Montana State University Extension cropping systems specialist at the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station’s Southern Agricultural Research Center, are suitable for all regions of Montana. The irrigation scheduling tool is so far suitable only for Yellowstone Valley producers.

All of the tools are available as links at the Southern Ag Research Center Website: http:// They require no special software.

“Today’s agriculture is all about making decisions,” McVay said.

Growers first have to decide what crop to plant, then which variety is most appropriate for their environment, then how to manage fertilizer and weeds. Irrigated crops like sugarbeets and corn also require decisions on when to irrigate to optimize yields.

“All these decisions require current information,” McVay said, “and finding all that information used to mean phone calls and conversations with chemical dealers, seed salesmen and neighbors, in addition to watching the weather.”

McVay’s set of crop decision tools are designed to help producers make these important decisions. In addition, irrigators in the Yellowstone Valley will find a Water Use Tool to calculate water use by irrigated crops.

The Fertilizer Recommendation Tool lets producers enter your soil test results, choose a crop and yield goal, and then watch as a fertilizer recommendation is generated.

The Herbicide Selection Tool so far is only applicable to post applications on cereals, but if this becomes something that growers use, McVay hopes to expand it to all crops grown in the state.

Terry Angvick, the MSU Extension agent in Sheridan County, said in an e-mail that he had reviewed the soil fertility, herbicide selection and variety selection sections of the Web-based tools.

“They are all very good and provide a good amount of information at your fingertips,” Angvick said. “I especially liked the Herbicide Selection section as well as the Soil Fertility section…. The Variety Selection was good in that it provided links to the various centers to do a little more in-depth research into local selections.”

The site’s information can be used simply with a Web browser.

McVay said the intent of the site is not to make a specific recommendation, but to use the labels of all herbicides registered for a crop to narrow the choices to just those that fit a grower’s conditions.

Based on the weeds present and any rotation restrictions the grower indicates, a short list of herbicides is presented. A user clicks on the herbicide name and is directed to the company’s label.

The irrigation scheduling tool is for growers in the Yellowstone Valley.

It calculates water use by irrigated crops. A grower can enter the date of last known full water profile, and the tool will generate water use since that time using the local electronic weather station.

“Precipitation varies across the valley in much greater proportion than does evapo-transpiration,” McVay said, “so correcting water use by the amount of precipitation received locally will help growers make that decision about when next to irrigate.”

McVay also hopes that users of the website will send feedback to him about how the tools are working and how they might be made better. He can be contacted at