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Combat High Fertilizer Prices with these 4 Tips

Mar 10, 2022

Combat High Fertilizer Prices with these 4 Tips

As nitrogen fertilizer prices continue to climb to record highs, many growers are looking for ways to find relief. By some accounts, it will cost $180 more per acre to grow corn in 2022 (as compared to last year). And while some predict marginal price drops later in the year, COVID-induced supply chain disruptions and other economic factors will continue to make nitrogen one of the more costly consumables for growers all over the country.

Some producers are resigned to using less fertilizer for a lower yield. Others are switching to crops like soybeans that are in high demand but use less nitrogen. The latter plan, in particular, could backfire if others follow suit—causing prices on crops to dip. The good news is, there are other strategies to help you save on fertilizer costs without sacrificing yield or profitability.

First, test.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but the better and more thorough your soil testing, the more focused and targeted you can be with your fertilizer. Traditionally, growers may have skipped tests to save money, but this is the year to invest upfront for longer-term savings. If you missed the fall testing window, test as soon as the ground thaws (at least 2-3 weeks before planting) to allow for ample analysis time.

Calculate carefully.

As growers know, nitrogen application has a point of diminishing returns. If you’ve experimented or calculated with this threshold before, you’re ahead of the game. If not, Penn State’s advice is a good start; experts there have “calculated that recent corn prices for 2022 harvest ($5.85/bu) and N(nitrogen) fertilizer prices ($0.90/lb N) are resulting in economically optimum N fertilizer rates that are 15-20 lbs N/ac lower than what they would have been two years ago, when corn was valued at $4.00/bu and N fertilizer cost $0.30/lb.” They go on to say that following that math for decreased nitrogen use should only result in a one-bushel-per-acre yield decline.

Rely on fertigation.

The benefits of fertigation are myriad—regardless of the price of fertilizer. But particularly now, producers can save time, money and headaches by fertilizing crops through their irrigation systems. Producers should plan to apply the minimum nitrogen amounts to get them through the beginning of the growing season; prices are expected to drop (in June or July), at which point you can buy at lower prices and apply the remainder needed.

“Today’s leading center pivot irrigation systems ensure the correct amount of water and fertilizer are uniformly applied to crops and soil at precisely the right time, saving costs and improving yields,” says Andy Murdock, Regional Sales Manager for Lindsay. “This means producers can spoon-feed nitrogen to plants in just the right amount at a given time in their growing cycle, for less run-off and soil leaching.”

Make sure the tech is up to par.

The fertigation cost-savings strategy is dependent on a few factors. To get the most from it, growers need to make sure their irrigation systems are up to the challenge by ensuring they’re equipped with the latest tech like FieldNET and FieldNET Advisor. This allows for remote operation and performance monitoring and optimization, which can increase cost-efficiency even more. FieldNET can also remotely control your injection pumps and pivots from the palm of your hand.

“When you’re using FieldNET and FieldNET Advisor for fertigation, you have the comfort of knowing you’re not losing or wasting high-dollar chemicals—plus, the time savings of not having to drive to every field to check applications,” says Robby Brett, owner of L.A. Brett and Sons, a Zimmatic dealer in Wadley, Georgia. “In our world, time savings is money.”

“Just try it. Fertigate with the help of FieldNET using one pivot and see what it can save you,” he adds. “As a dealer and a farmer myself, my advice to growers is to invest in full monitoring and control – if you don’t, a year or two later you’ll be making the upgrade.”

It’s not too late to implement smart strategies that can save you money this growing season. Talk to your nearest Zimmatic dealer for more expert insights, tips and tools.