Nutrient Balance And The Future Of Land

The dollar value of agricultural land in the North American Corn Belt has reached prices few ever thought possible. High commodity prices and favorable interest rates are cited as major factors behind the increases. At the same time, we see trends in nutrient balances that if unchecked will erode the fertility and productivity of those same land parcels that are today so highly valued.

In December, I was the evening speaker for the annual meeting of a highly successful regional investment firm that focuses on agricultural land and biofuel plants. My topic was “The Future of Land” and I emphasized three points:

  1. Land faces challenges in every country.
  2. Land plays a critical role in the most significant issues of the coming decades.
  3. The future of land will reflect the success of land managers in meeting stakeholder goals (a 4R concept).

It has become very clear that the market place today also sees land playing a critical role in the future. A report from Iowa State University shows that the value of farm land in the state of Iowa in 2012 increased 24% from 2011 to an average of $8,296 per acre. Averages for most counties in the northwest quadrant of Iowa exceeded $10,000 per acre. According to USDA-NASS, cropland value for the U.S. as a whole increased 14.5% in 2012 to an average of $3,550 per acre and other sources indicate that this trend is not unique to North America. The value of Brazilian cropland is estimated to have increased 18% last year on top of a decade with average annual increases of 14%. In Great Britain, even with the country’s difficult economic climate, arable farmland increased 5% in value in 2012 and much of Central Europe has been experiencing huge increases in land value.

Nutrient Balance

At the same time, a popular topic at state and regional meetings this winter was nutrient balance (nutrients being applied vs. nutrients removed in crop harvest) and the International Plant Nutrition Institute’s (IPNI) new and planned tools dealing with nutrient balance such as NuGIS, our new nutrient removal Web portal, and mobile phone apps. These tools show us that phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) balance in much of the Corn Belt has become decidedly negative and our soil test summaries have demonstrated that these negative budgets are frequently drawing down soil fertility to less than optimal levels, a situation that threatens the future productivity of the same land that has become incredibly expensive.

It’s a good time to remind ourselves that crops obtain much of the nutrients they absorb not from the fertilizer we apply this year, but from nutrients in the bulk soil and so the fertility level of that bulk soil is critically important. Allowing fertility levels to drop below critical thresholds is akin to falling over the “fertility cliff” where we have a high probability of experiencing:

  • Loss in ability to harvest the increasing genetic potential of crops.
  • Reduction in system efficiency.
  • Increased potential for nutrient losses.
  • Greater susceptibility to weather extremes like the Corn Belt experienced in 2012.
  • And perhaps, a loss in land value.

Allowing highly positive nutrient balances to continue where soil fertility is already above optimal levels also leads to negative consequences and may in extreme cases negatively impact future land value.

I was sitting next to Marc Vanacht during a presentation at the 2012 annual meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation Society when the speaker referred to a “restorative economy.” Both Vanacht and I immediately moved that concept into our own world as a “restorative agronomy.”

Shortly after the meeting, Vanacht expanded the concept into three terms:

  1. An extractive agronomy that leaves the soil and the resource base worse off.
  2. An exploitive agronomy that maintains the status quo but leaves the resource base vulnerable to extreme situations.
  3. A restorative agronomy which rebuilds the resource base to make it more resilient to extreme situations. As the dollar value of land increases, it seems that these terms should be front and center in our minds and plans made to assure that what we practice is indeed a restorative agronomy.

Good tools are available from IPNI and other sources to draw attention to these conflicting trends of increasing land values and inappropriate nutrient balances … tools that can help growers, their advisers and input suppliers make appropriate adjustments to create a restorative agronomy within 4R Nutrient Stewardship programs. Such adjustments are necessary if highly valued land is to remain highly productive land.

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

Iowa waterways
FertilizerDow AgroSciences Recognizes Ag Retailers’ Role in Protecting Iowa Water Quality
April 6, 2017
The state of Iowa and its agriculture community have worked for decades to preserve soil health, protect water quality and Read More
Yara West Sacramento Ribbon Cutting
Crop InputsYara West Sacramento Is Newest Addition
March 27, 2017
Yara’s West Sacramento Terminal was officially welcomed March 21 as the newest Yara North America facility in the U.S. While continually Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
Growing corn
Crop InputsLock Down Nitrogen For 2017 Profits
March 5, 2017
Managing nutrient programs to snuff out the three types of nitrogen loss — leaching, volatilization, and denitrification — is crucial Read More
Trending Articles
Crop InputsFlying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big
April 13, 2017
Describing FMC as “under the radar,” admittedly, is probably a stretch. But in a snap of the fingers, FMC upped Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionStill Hunting Yields
April 1, 2017
There’s no denying it — the agricultural marketplace today is undergoing a fundamental shift in fortunes. Not too many years Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
Latest News
ManagementWashington Update, Dow-DuPont Earnings, and the Passing…
April 27, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the latest Beltway news, crop protection company 1st quarter numbers, and the Read More
BRANDT
CropLife 100Former PotashCorp COO Joins BRANDT Board
April 27, 2017
BRANDT has announced the appointment of another industry veteran to its board of directors. David Delaney, most recently EVP and Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop InputsFortune: Inside China’s $43 Billion Bid for Food …
April 26, 2017
(Via Fortune.com) The worst famine in human history occurred in China from 1959 to 1961. An estimated 34 million people Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Announces Changes in Board of Directors
April 26, 2017
ChemChina and Syngenta announced changes relating to the new Board of Directors of Syngenta following the closing of the ChemChina Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Introduces PerCarb Broad-Spectrum Bacte…
April 26, 2017
BioSafe Systems announces PerCarb (Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate), a new alternative to potassium bicarbonate and lime sulfur products for use in Read More
Deere Twitter
EquipmentTop 10 Twitter Pics for #Plant17
April 26, 2017
Despite some wet weather in parts of the Midwest, growers and ag retailers are working feverishly to plant this year’s Read More
Donald Trump
Crop InputsTrump Targets Agriculture with Latest Executive Order
April 26, 2017
(Via UPI.com) President Donald Trump on Tuesday took executive action in an effort to help grow the domestic agriculture industry Read More
AGCO Ratliff featured
EquipmentAGCO Mourns Passing of Company Founder, Industry Vision…
April 25, 2017
AGCO Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of agricultural equipment and solutions, mourns the passing of founder and former President, Read More
Engenia soybeans
Crop InputsINNVICTIS CROP CARE Introduces VANDAL MOC Soybean Herbi…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has announced the U.S. EPA registration for VANDAL MOC, a combination of sulfentrazone plus metolachlor. VANDAL Read More
Kochia
HerbicidesINNVICTIS CROP CARE Launches STAVE Post-Emerge Broadlea…
April 25, 2017
INNVICTIS CROP CARE, LLC has introduced STAVE as the newest addition to­ its expanding portfolio. STAVE will be a great Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationSonny Perdue Confirmed by Senate as Next Agriculture Se…
April 25, 2017
After months without a secretary of agriculture, the Senate voted Monday evening to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to Read More
BPIA logo
Seed/BiotechBPIA Files Comments with USDA
April 24, 2017
The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) has filed comments with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Read More
Eric SfiligojHope for Application Equipment Sales
April 24, 2017
The old saying goes that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” If this is indeed the case, then things may Read More
Stewardship video screenshot
ManagementNew Video Raises Awareness of 2,4-D Stewardship
April 24, 2017
A new public service video developed and produced by the 2,4-D Research Task Force, in conjunction with the American Soybean Read More
ManagementAn Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tooteli…
April 20, 2017
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses An Inside Look at Award Winning Ag Retailer Gar Tootelian Read More
Students Soybean Field
Industry NewsMACA Announces 2017 Young Leader Scholarship Recipients
April 19, 2017
The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) Board of Directors selected 11 college students to receive the MACA Young Leader Scholarship Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
SoftwareKnoa Software Solution Helps GROWMARK Boost System Perf…
April 19, 2017
Knoa Software, a leading provider of user experience management (UEM) software, has announced that GROWMARK, Inc., a regional agricultural cooperative Read More
Crop InputsFBN Publishes ‘Voice of the Farmer’ Agricul…
April 17, 2017
Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) released today its “The Voice of the Farmer”, which the company is describing as “a special Read More