Reducing Fertilizer Costs in 2009
It is clear by the number of comments, questions and discussions I overhear that fertilizer costs dominate much of the concern for 2009 crops. Prices of crop fertilizers had increased substantially over the last two years and have only recently begun to soften. Unfortunately the bottom has fallen out of commodity prices which makes fertilizer inputs cost the dominate factor in determining crop profit.
The first and absolutely most important step you can take in determining fertilizer need and use for your crop is to take a soil sample. If there was ever a year to use the reserves of phosphorus and potassium in the soil – this is it! A soil sample can be a ‘do-it-yourself’ project, or contact any one of the local agribusinesses.
The results from your soil test will give you a baseline where you stand on phosphorus and potassium. If you soil test phosphorus and potassium levels reach a certain level, no additional fertilizer is required for that crop that year. If the soil test phosphorus and potassium aren’t at this level they may be at the level that only requires they be used at a maintenance rate.
In addition to phosphorus and potassium levels, a soil test can give you insight to soil pH. Phosphorus can be as much as 20-25% more available in this pH range as opposed to a pH in the 5’s.
Finally, consider using manure on your farm to supplement or offset commercial fertilizer. Manures are an excellent source of fertilizers and can be less expensive than purchased commercial fertilizers. Good distribution and nutrient testing are the keys to the use of manures as fertilizers. They will usually build phosphorus levels and maintain potassium levels when used. The nitrogen availability is somewhat unpredictable but good estimates can be made for the conditions under which the manure was used.
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