Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fertilizer Games

I spent the last two weeks playing fertilizer games. That is calling four suppliers and trying to get the right products for the best price. About the time I decided on one, wouldn't you know the low cost leader would call with a "deal."

No one is putting on potash around here since it is $800 per ton, cheaper than the $1200 they quoted last fall but still too high to pencil unless you are really low in potassium. I suppose a little went on but I haven't seen any myself and I do get around and talk to lots of farmers and suppliers.

Fertilizer followed gas up to $4, the suppliers booked it and many of them are stuck with it on barges or on hand. I don't know how it will all work out.

So now they have shut down the potash mines since none is moving so they can keep the price up. We will have to meet in the middle somewhere but I am not sure where that will be.

Fortunately trace elements are still a decent buy and everything I sample needs trace elements. Boron is extremely short across Ohio farmland. No wonder, no one ever tested for it so no one ever put it on.

I have many farmers who need Calcium, Sulfur, Manganese, Zinc and Boron. A few need copper. We don't test for Nickel yet but it is the last nutrient discovered that is needed by plants making a total of 17 now.

Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron (which is usually plentiful here) and the trace elements or micronutrients Boron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Molydenum, Chlorine and Nickel are needed in certain amounts by plants.

The soil test reveals the amounts available in your soil and the lab will recommend fertilizers if you ask them to. I always try to back this up with a tissue test in the growing crop.

This makes the fertilizer game a little more tolerable and a whole lot more valuable to the farmer. This year, it is difficult to calculate a profit based on market prices versus prices of inputs so fertilizer is getting reduced or cut out on some farms.

The combine will soon reveal the results when the first barley comes off in June until the last grain of corn is shelled this fall.

Hope it is a profitable one for both of us!

Ed Winkle

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