Fertilizer: Investing In Opportunity

Glen Franzluebbers Central Valley Ag

Are your customers fertilizing like they did in the 1980s? If they are, they’ve likely wasted their time and money, particularly if they’re investing in the latest, highest-yielding hybrids, varieties, and cultivars. And you’re probably leaving income potential on the table as well.

“The crop genetics we have today are built for speed, they’re built for yield,” says Vaughn Goodman, plant nutrition specialist with Wilbur-Ellis in Kuna, ID. “Just throwing a 200-200-200 dry blend on potatoes in the fall doesn’t cut it anymore.”

Goodman, a self-proclaimed “fertilizer junkie,” is in charge of evaluating new products for Wilbur-Ellis and bringing the company’s crop advisors and customers up to speed on the products. That’s no small job in the company’s Pacific Intermountain business unit, which deals with 165 crops across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and part of Wyoming.

Goodman looks at placement strategies, production chemistries, and application methods for every new product in order to identify where the product can best maximize grower value. “We have cutting-edge growers who want new things and new information. They want to be on the edge of what is new because of the economic changes in agriculture. If we don’t bring them new things, someone else will,” Goodman explains.

Glen Franzluebbers, technology director for Central Valley Ag (CVA), headquartered in Oakland, NE, echoes these sentiments. “If our customers aren’t profitable, we’re not profitable. We’re seeing more customer interest in plant nutrition because of higher yield potential and increasing crop removal rates — and of course the increased investment in corn and soybean genetics,” Franzluebbers says.

CVA’s precision agriculture program — Advanced Cropping Systems — builds on grid sampling to demonstrate the need for plant nutrients and sets the stage for getting the right fertilizer out at the right time, right rate, and in the right place for each field. Advanced Cropping Systems is the springboard for educating customers on plant fertility and for growing fertilizer sales.

New Product, New Information

In the quest to meet grower demands for products and information that helps them improve profitability, both Wilbur-Ellis and CVA have invested in bringing new fertilizer technology to their customers in the form of MicroEssentials premium fertilizer. This phosphorus-based fertilizer from the Mosaic Co. is available in three formulations and incorporates the correct ratios of critical nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and/or zinc — into uniform granules. With all nutrients in each single granule, distribution is consistent within the specific management zone, giving every plant a better shot at getting the essential nutrients it needs to produce the best results.

“With a product like MicroEssentials, we have something new to go to our customers with and talk to them about,” Franzluebbers says. “This premium fertilizer helps them better meet the nutrition needs of today’s genetics and gives growers better fertilizer efficiency and nutrient management almost to an individual plant level. And it gives us an edge over our competition.”

CVA offers MicroEssentials SZ (12- 40-0-10-1) because soils in the area are traditionally deficient in zinc.

“We’re also looking at incorporating MicroEssentials SZ into our precision application program as the P2O5 source,” says Franzluebbers. “With sulfur and zinc in one homogenous granule, we get very even distribution of nutrients and improved availability of nutrients to the plants.

“Growers here have questioned the validity of spreading a blended fertilizer containing just 2 pounds of zinc per acre,” he explains. “This product makes agronomic sense to our growers.” Because phosphorus and sulfur are provided in the appropriate ratios, crop uptake of phosphorus is improved 10% to 30%. This means plants more efficiently use the nutrients provided and customers get a greater return from their fertilizer investment.

Fertility To The Forefront

Though there has been nothing new in the way of phosphate fertilizers for 40 years, MicroEssentials has a different approach to nutrient delivery, and introducing the product requires an investment in agronomic training to help company personnel and growers conquer the plant-nutrition learning curve — which may have been somewhat neglected in the past.

Both Franzluebbers and Goodman recognize that the time spent educating growers on plant fertility hasn’t been directly proportionate to revenue potential and that changing plant nutrition needs also creates a need for increasing emphasis on grower education. In 2008, fertilizer accounted for 73% of sales for CVA, a 5% increase over 2007. Yet only about 35% of past grower education efforts have been devoted to plant fertility.

In light of industry changes, CVA recently hired an agronomist, Neil Schumacher, whose responsibilities include helping train both staff and growers on the key factors that influence plant nutrition: varying nutrition needs, new genetics, and plant removal rates.

“Grower education is very important to our business because if they understand what we are doing, the products we offer, and the benefits those products provide to them, it makes sales and increasing volume much easier,” Franzluebbers adds. CVA has seen good grower response and increasing sales over the two years it has offered the product.

At Wilbur-Ellis, 1½-day internal training sessions and business unit sales meetings each year are venues for staff training on fertility. However, Goodman sees the investment in grower education as disproportionate to the percent of revenue fertilizer generates and to the growth potential it offers. Nutrition gets about 30% of the spotlight in his organization — and Goodman admits increasing the focus is difficult due to regulatory requirements for education on crop protection products in his area.

Yet the situation is not unique. According to the 2008 CropLife 100 survey of the industry’s top retailers, fertilizer sales weigh in at a hefty 40% to 60% of revenue, followed by sales of crop protection products (between 20% and 30%), then seed (maybe 20%), and finally custom application (less than 5%).

Where does your business stack up on grower education focus in relation to income generated?

For retailers who offer MicroEssentials, help is available to educate employees and growers about the product as well as promote it. To supplement face-to-face training, Mosaic also offers a convenient on-line training tool to bring sales, agronomy, and fertilizer personnel up to speed on MicroEssentials. Two e-learning courses explain what MicroEssentials fertilizer is, how it works, and the value each of the three MicroEssentials products provides to growers. The courses are under the “retailer tools” tab at www.microessentials.com. CCA credit is available for completing both courses.

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

Aerial view of the West Fertilizer explosion site
FertilizerFertilizer Companies Blame City For West, TX, Explosion
August 6, 2014
El Dorado Chemical Co. and CF Industries contend the city failed to properly train the first responders and had insufficient protocols in place to battle the April 17, 2013, blaze at West Fertilizer Co. that triggered the explosion. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute: New President, Renewed Energy
February 3, 2014
Chris Jahn relishes the opportunity to lead the organization through the challenging times ahead. Read More
FertilizerA New Cycle For Fertilizer Demand
January 2, 2014
Changes in the corn market could have a major impact on the crop nutrients sector in 2014, say experts. Read More
FertilizerOSHA Hammers West Fertilizer With Over $100K In Fines For April Explosion
October 10, 2013
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is fining the parent company of the West Fertilizer plant, Adair Grain Inc., $118,300 for 24 violations. Read More

Trending Articles

EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Acquires Lemon Ag Services
August 4, 2014
The acquisition of Lemon Ag fits BRANDT’s aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior agronomic advice and services for customers in central Illinois. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Resurgence Of Crop Protection
August 4, 2014
Plenty of new offerings over the next few years should see a rebirth for the crop protection products category in terms of market share. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More

Latest News

CropLife 100GROWMARK CEO To Retire
August 22, 2014
GROWMARK chief executive officer Jeff Solberg has announced his retirement effective September 15, 2014. Read More
InsecticidesDuPont’s Prevathon Approved For Dry Beans
August 22, 2014
DuPont Prevathon insect control powered by Rynaxypyr has received EPA registration for foliar use on dry bean crops, including dried shelled peas and beans. Read More
ManagementNCGA DuPont New Leaders Program Enters Sophmore Season
August 20, 2014
The National Corn Growers Association and DuPont are pleased to announce the second year of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program. Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Links Up With Mitsui, Hokusan
August 20, 2014
Mitsui Chemicals Agro, Inc., and Hokusan Co., announced the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement allowing Verdesian Life Sciences global access to its patented technology for suppressing mycotoxin contamination in wheat and barley. Read More
SprayersUniversity Of Illinois Introduces New Spray App
August 18, 2014
University of Illinois Extension has released a new smartphone app for making sprayer-related calculations. Pesticide Spray Calculator, or Spray Calc, Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Names New Manager Of Federal Government Relati…
August 18, 2014
Laura Wood Peterson has joined Syngenta as manager of federal government relations, based in Washington, DC. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science …
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More
EquipmentDeere Announces Factory Layoffs
August 18, 2014
Deere & Co. has announced it will reduce the size of its manufacturing workforce at some agricultural equipment factories in response to current market demand for its products. Read More
HerbicidesNew DuPont Afforia Herbicide Gives Crops A Clean Start
August 18, 2014
DuPont Afforia is a preplant herbicide for soybeans and other field crops that provides excellent burndown and residual control of many challenging weeds, such as marestail and waterhemp. Read More
Equipment21 Products Showcased At MAGIE 2014
August 18, 2014
The annual Midwest AG Industries Exposition is upon us. Here is CropLife IRON's look at some of the products visitors can expect to see at this week's event. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Seeks Nominations For 2014 Operator Of The Year
August 15, 2014
Ag retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada are encouraged to nominate their best applicators. Read More
EquipmentAdvance Your Technology IQ At MAGIE
August 13, 2014
The Midwest AG Industries Exposition (August 20-21) is the place you need to be to see, study and evaluate how new advances in the equipment, operations, crop protection and fertility sectors can help your business prosper. Read More
ManagementCropLife’s Buyers’ Guide Issue Now Availabl…
August 13, 2014
One of our most read issues of the year — the August Buyers' Guide — is ready to download on the iPad. This popular issue features equipment for "In The Field," "At The Plant" and "In The Office." Read More
WebinarsWebinars On Demand
August 13, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
HerbicidesBASF: Fall Burndown Benefits Go Beyond Weed Control
August 12, 2014
While unpredictable weather may delay application timing of spring herbicides, more growers are adding a burndown application in the fall Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide P…
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More
StewardshipNitrogen Efficiency Supports Environmental Stewardship
August 12, 2014
As growers prepare for another harvest, it’s important to consider how nitrogen stabilization not only supports healthy plant growth but also fosters environmental stewardship. Read More
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Introduces 19 New Corn Hybrids For 2015
August 12, 2014
Many of the new hybrids feature Mycogen's SmartStax Refuge Advanced technology for maximum protection of the genetic potential and planting convenience. Read More