By Clint Thompson
The high fertilizer prices gripping the agricultural world should improve some for farmers this year. But just a little.
At the very least, costs are not expected to increase, says Glen Harris, University of Georgia (UGA) professor and Extension agronomist in environmental soil and fertilizer.
“If you look back, fertilizer prices went up in 2008 but came back in 2009. It bounced around and then climbed back up. Last year we were at an all-time high for N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous) and K (potassium). The good news is we think they’re going to go down a little, but the bad news is just a little,” Harris said. “It’s really going to be the first time we ever had two years in a row with pretty high fertilizer prices.”
Harris estimated that fertilizer expenses doubled last year from the previous season. Unfortunately, fertilizer applications are not a component of farming that producers can skip or cut back. Plants require food to grow.
“The strategy doesn’t change. It just makes things more important, the things we should have already been doing; the soil testing, making sure your pH is right to get the most out of your fertilizer dollars; you can’t get around it,” Harris said. “Plants need so many nutrients, you’ve got to give it to them. It’s going to be a challenge, but again, it’s all you look at it. The good news is they’re not going up any further, too.”
With input costs once again a factor, high yields are a must for growers. Proper fertilizer requirements help lead to those desired yields.
“When this happens, there’s always talk along with cutting back on fertilizer. But what you’ve got to be careful of is it will cut back your yield. You’ve got to make the yield to make your budget,” Harris said.
“Yields pay the bill. The good news is we really know what we need to do. We need to do good soil testing and follow recommendations. We need to lime when it calls for lime. We need to put it out far enough in advance to where it will fix it when you plant your crop. We know those things, so it just makes it more important.”