Take into account the economics of using fertilizers

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With the recent increase in fertilizer prices, it is more important than ever to use the right amount of fertilizer to maximize economic returns. Applying too little or too much fertilizer can lead to substantial economic losses.

Nutrients are transferred

Unused fertilizers are usually carried over from the previous year, depending on the weather conditions of the previous year, soil texture, rate of mineralization of organic matter, nitrogen uptake by crops and crop yield.

Most of Nebraska was drier than normal during the 2021 growing season. This may have limited the downward movement of nitric nitrogen (nitrate-N) through the soil profile, resulting in less nitrate leaching loss while potentially reducing crop nitrogen uptake and crop yield, especially for rainfed crops.

If you were in an area of ​​the state with drier conditions, the residual soil N may be higher than normal for rainfed crops. Therefore, it is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly practice to credit this residual soil nitrate-N in determining N-fertilizer rates for 2022. To credit residual N-nitrate, soil sampling at a depth of 2-3 feet in the fall or spring will help determine the amount of residual N-nitrate.

The timing of soil sampling to make nitrogen recommendations could be important, as snowmelt and early spring precipitation can affect nitrogen losses (especially for coarse textured soils), resulting in underapplication of N preplant or in season. samples is good practice for determining residual N-nitrate in soil to be credited in nitrogen rate decisions.

High cost of fertilizers

Recently, due to various global factors, fertilizer prices have increased rapidly and almost doubled from last year. Currently, N costs $ 0.58 to $ 0.95 per pound, up from $ 0.30 to $ 0.38 per pound last year.

Corn prices have also increased, but not as much as fertilizer prices. At the end of October, corn was selling for around $ 5 a bushel for delivery of the 2022 crop, while a year ago, corn for the 2021 crop was trading at around $ 3.80 a bushel.

Raw material prices will continue to fluctuate through the 2022 harvest. The worst place to end up is to buy high priced fertilizer while receiving a low price for your crop ie price compression – cost. We strongly recommend that you outsource part of your crop when purchasing fertilizer. Having taken on some of the expected production at current price levels puts you in a higher average farm gate price, if prices start to drop.

New recommendations

With the high cost of fertilizers compared to last year, the relative cost of making accurate fertilizer recommendations based on soil tests is lower than in previous years. Assuming the same soil testing costs and expected yield for 2021 crops compared to 2022 crops, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln recommends a lower nitrogen application rate for the 2022 growing season due to the change in the fertilizer price ratio (see Table 1).

With an 8 to 1 lower fertilizer price ratio for 2022 corn compared to the 12 to 1 fertilizer price ratio for last year, the recommended application rate is 26 pounds per acre lower, which translates into a fertilizer savings of $ 15 to $ 25 per acre, depending on the source of fertilizer (see Table 1).

In addition, by incorporating residual nitrate nitrogen into the nitrogen fertilizer prescription, it is possible to significantly reduce the cost of fertilizer per acre. By factoring in residual nitrate nitrogen in the nitrogen fertilizer prescription, growers can save $ 19 to $ 30 per acre by crediting 32 pounds of nitrogen per acre (see Table 2).

Note that the UNL calculator takes into account a default soil nitrate credit even though no soil test is included. Nevertheless, we recommend using the soil nitrate test values ​​for an accurate nitrogen fertilizer prescription.

Table 2. Comparison of nitrogen costs with and without crediting residual soil nitrate *.

Another important factor to consider when determining optimal fertilizer rates is proper accounting for other nutrient sources, such as legumes, manure, and irrigation water. While fertilizer prices have doubled from last year, so has the value of credits from these sources.

In the example above, the previous crop was corn. If the previous crop had been soybeans, the standard nitrogen credit for corn following soybeans on heavy textured soil would be 45 pounds per acre with potential savings of $ 26 to $ 43 per acre, according to the source. ‘fertilizer.

The cost of collecting and analyzing water samples for nitrate content – or manure samples for a range of nutrients – has not changed much, while the value of the nutrients in these resources have increased dramatically.

The timing of N fertilizer application can also have a high economic impact in high fertilizer prices. Compared to fall fertilizer application, in-season fertilizer management with variable rate technology is expected to have higher economic returns.

At the end of the line

With high fertilizer prices, investing in fertilizer for the 2022 crop can be daunting. However, with current crop prices, such investments can pay off. However, it is essential that investments are made with the best possible information, based on careful soil analyzes and after taking into account all sources of nutrients. For more information, visit cropwatch.unl.edu.

Iqbal is the Nebraska Extension nutrient management and water quality specialist. Nygren is a Nebraska Extension educator. Walters is a Nebraska Extension grain economist. Puntel is Nebraska Extension’s soil fertility and precision farming specialist. Maharjan is a soil and nutrient management specialist from Nebraska Extension. McClure is a Nebraska Extension Farm and Ranch Management Analyst.

Source: UNL CropWatch, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the sources. Informa Business Media and all of its subsidiaries are not responsible for the content of this information asset.

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