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

FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honors
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
Tiger Sul Crop Nutrient Calculator
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launches New Nutrient Calculator App
November 12, 2015
H.J. Baker, a global agriculture firm, has launched a new agronomic nutrient calculator app. This innovative and powerful tool will Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Hosting Chinese Delegation
November 12, 2015
International Agricultural firm, H.J. Baker, is hosting a delegation from Beijing Xinhefeng Agrochemicals Co., Ltd. (XHF), a leading distributor of Read More
corn field
FertilizerWest Central Distribution Launches Levesol DFC
November 5, 2015
Levesol DFC, a dry fertilizer compatible version, joins the original Levesol as another option for growers to maximize the potential Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100United Cooperative Acquires Four ADM Wisconsin Facilities
November 12, 2015
United Cooperative, based out of Beaver Dam, WI, recently acquired four grain and agronomy locations from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Car Makes NASCAR Xfinity Series
October 29, 2015
BRANDT will join JR Motorsports with driver, Justin Allgaier, for the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity (NXS) Series season. Allgaier will pilot Read More
CHS Building exterior
CropLife 100CHS Leaders Help Shape Succession Report
October 22, 2015
Succession planning was listed as a main concern of cooperative leaders at this summer’s 15 regional CHS owner town hall Read More
Fall Harvest
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases Eight Regional Seed Companies
October 12, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has announced the purchase of eight regional seed companies to advance its seed business. Pinnacle has acquired: Read More
MRM Agricultural Service
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires CropLife 100 Ag Retailer
October 8, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC has successfully acquired the Missouri-based agronomy business of MRM Agricultural Service, LLC and its affiliates (MRM). Operating Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Opens Dry Fertilizer Storage And Blending Facility In Washington
October 8, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co., ranked No. 4 on the CropLife 100, has constructed and opened a 22,000-ton dry fertilizer storage and blending Read More
Latest News
HerbicidesBREAKING: EPA Pulls Registration On Dow’s Enlist …
November 25, 2015
EPA on Wednesday withdrew approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans, Read More
FertilizerYara Tampa Ammonia Terminal Garners ResponsibleAg Honor…
November 25, 2015
Yara has received its first ResponsibleAg Certification for its Tampa, FL, Ammonia terminal location. This achievement demonstrates Yara’s commitment to Read More
ManagementReviewing The Top Ag Stories For 2015
November 24, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf discuss the most noteworthy events from this past year in agriculture. Read More
EmployeesAgriculture Jobs May Be Plentiful, But New Grads Are Sc…
November 24, 2015
Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture each year for the next five years, but there's not enough grads to fill them. Read More
Radish cover crop
StewardshipCover Crops Guide Helps Growers Improve Water Quality
November 23, 2015
A publication that teaches growers the advantages of using cover crops to improve soil health and crop yields has won Read More
Crop InputsThe Andersons’ Products Receive California Organi…
November 23, 2015
The Plant Nutrient Group of The Andersons, Inc. announced today that its Humic DG and Black Gypsum DG products are Read More
Eric SfiligojNew European Study Seems To Support Glyphosate Safety
November 23, 2015
Looking at any international news over the past few years, it might seem as if the European Union (EU) is Read More
Toggle Biostimulant corn roots
Crop InputsTwo New Biostimulants Added To United Suppliers’ …
November 20, 2015
Winfield US announces the launch of two new products in the United Suppliers portfolio for the 2016 crop season, Optify Read More
StewardshipNRDC Report: Cover Crops Contain Vast Benefits
November 19, 2015
As harvest season ends and farmers in the United States ready themselves for winter, one small change could make a Read More
Fall Harvest
Seed/BiotechArysta Launches New Seed Protectant
November 19, 2015
As spring wheat growers begin planning for a strong start to their season, Arysta LifeScience North America announces RANCONA V Read More
Crop InputsInocucor Receives U.S. Patent For Microbials
November 19, 2015
Inocucor Technologies Inc., the Montreal-based agriculture biotech company, was issued patent No. 9,175,258 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect Read More
ManagementSyngenta Rumors and ARA 2015 Preview
November 19, 2015
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj looks at the latest rumors involving Syngenta selling its crop protection business and talks about events Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Finalists For Operator Of The Year Honor
November 19, 2015
AGCO Corp. has announced the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, Read More
High Plains Aquifer
StewardshipStudy: High Plains Aquifer Overall Usage In Decline
November 18, 2015
A new Kansas State University study finds that the over-tapping of the High Plains Aquifer’s groundwater beyond the aquifer’s recharge Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
FungicidesArysta Launches New Corn And Soybean Fungicide
November 17, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America has recently launched ZOLERA FX Fungicide. The highly systemic, powerful fungicide delivers broad-spectrum disease control with Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance: Microbials Targeted For 250-500 million…
November 17, 2015
Monsanto and Novozymes have announced a new 2025 acreage target that will guide the companies’ microbials business for the next Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Still Being Eyed For China Takeover
November 16, 2015
China National Chemical Corp. approached sovereign wealth funds including China Investment Corp. to help pay for a potential acquisition of Read More
Cedar Country Cooperative
Eric SfiligojCooperative Consolidation Continues
November 16, 2015
As I put this enewsletter column together, we’ve just put the finishing touches on our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 report. Read More