Long-Term Lessons

No matter what the topic, it’s pretty clear that the saying “what goes up, must come down” doesn’t carry much weight anymore — especially in the fertilizer market.

“It was a good year,” says David Benefield, senior vice president of Frit, Inc. “It could have been a much better year, especially when you have $1,000 MAP (monoammonium phosphate) and $600 potash.” Benefield was just one of many in the industry who witnessed escalating prices in a short period of time.

“People get turned off pretty quick when prices start running up that high,” Benefield says. And while that may be true, micronutrient sales for 2008 still remained strong.

“Micronutrients in the past have typically cost a lot more than your NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) materials,” he adds. “Now we look like a bargain.”

Patience Is A Virtue

“Worldwide demand remained very high throughout the season,” says Dr. Dan Froehlich, U.S. agronomy manager of The Mosaic Co. “This led to rapidly increasing prices and spot fertilizer shortages.” For Mosaic, its preseason expectations were met, “but the road to the end was not predictable.”

Froehlich explains: “Cool, wet weather delayed fertilizer application, planting, and emergence of crops throughout North America.” These delays helped dealers sustain their supplies, but also led to a minimized spring application window.

Luckily, this season’s late planting didn’t inflict too many damaging blows to growers and micronutrient manufacturers. Field preparation in soggy soils could have caused severe side wall and soil compaction. “Growers were patient and very few cut back on the needed nutrients or reported compaction issues,” adds Froehlich.

Also experiencing a steady rise in sales was Stoller USA. “The micronutrient sales of our company were greatly over 25%,” says Jerry Stoller, president and CEO. “The irregular planting and the slow growth of the early planting of corn extended our season well passed the normal time period.”

The ‘Cutting Back’ Blues

As growers watch the NPK prices climb higher than their ears of corn, some are starting to cut back on select nutrients, deciding to forego any kind of dry application, which can lead to soil depletion.

“The grower needs to look at the crops requirement for balanced fertility, and often overlooking a micronutrient application can result in diminished yields when omitted from the fertility program,” says Jeff Ivan, manager of marketing for Tiger-Sul Products.

“If they don’t put out the P and the K, they’re certainly not going to put out the zinc to go with it,” Frit’s Benefield explains. “If you don’t use zinc, you’re not going to make the kind of crop you should make.”

In cut-back situations like this, education is key. “The biggest thing we learned [this season] was how many farmers ask retailers what they could do to increase yields,” Stoller says. He believes that retailers are lacking the necessary information farmers need to increase their yields.

Benefield adds: “I understand the nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash prices are at all-time highs, but so are the commodity prices.

“It doesn’t make economic sense for growers to cut their fertilizer application when they realize the commodity prices will more than compensate,” keeping in mind that this may not ring true for crops like potatoes, of which have not seen the rise that corn, wheat, and soybeans have seen, says Benefield. In order for growers to maximize their yields, retailers and manufacturers need to inform them that reducing a full fertilizer program is not the answer.

“There are a lot of people that can’t visualize paying that much for fertilizer, but by the same token, they probably can’t envision ever having gotten $8 a bushel for corn or $14 for beans,” Benefield concludes, especially when corn was $1.85 two years ago.

Combating Costs

Jereleen Brydon of Wolf Trax, Inc. recognized that increased NPK prices affected all crop input prices in a negative manner. “That being said, growers who required additional plant protection products certainly went ahead and purchased them, as crop prices offset these expenses,” Brydon says. “Fortunately we were able to maintain our prices throughout the year, so the cost of using our products was no greater than it was in 2007.”

Wolf Trax also benefited from comparatively low transportation costs. Because DDP Micronutrients are formulated as a dry dispersible powder, Wolf Trax was able to reduce fuel and shipping costs, which helped give them a leg up. “For example, one pallet of Wolf Trax DDP micronutrients replaces 13 pallets of typical granular micronutrients,” Brydon adds.

Unfortunately for Stoller, escalated raw material prices were rather frustrating. “We continuously had to put surcharges on due to the increase of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash.”

QC Corp. President Don Gordon has been told to expect 30% decreases in straight micronutrient inputs, thanks to rising NPK costs. “Where you may see a reduction in straight commodity micronutrient inputs, there will be a continued demand for specialty micronutrient combinations that have unique characteristics,” Gordon says. QC is currently working on slow release micronutrients that are totally water soluble.

Precision agriculture is another way micronutrient retailers and growers can fight costs. “The overall amount of fertilizer used has not decreased dramatically with precision ag, but the nutrient use efficiencies have improved,” Mosaic’s Froehlich explains. “This is good for the grower trying to maximize yield, good for the dealer who can maximize his effectiveness, and good for the environment by only applying the amount of fertilizer that is needed across the field.”

One other prominent trend in reducing fertilizer use came with acreages switching from corn to soybeans. “The economics for soybeans were very good,” Tiger-Sul’s Ivan says.

Froehlich adds: “There was some shifting from corn to soybeans, but not to the extent that was expected.”

What’s New? What’s Next?

From 4,000 acres last year, this year Stoller sold enough PowerPlus to cover 140,000 acres. PowerPlus helps corn crops use nitrogen more effectively. “Last year, we had yield increases where the lowest was 10 bushels per acre and the highest was 71 bushels per acre,” Stoller says. “This is the only product that Stoller ever developed where customers are selling other farmers.”

This August, Tiger-Sul increased in size with the addition of two new production facilities, one of which will be located in Stockton, CA. The company has also licensed its technology to Chemical Initiatives in Durban, South Africa, in an effort to balance fertility in the soils of the African continent.

For 2009, continuous corn will again be a hot topic as grain shortages are expected this fall. “Sulfur and zinc usage is more critical in continuous corn as the soil has less time to recharge,” Froehlich informs. “Sulfur and zinc deficiencies were noted throughout the Corn Belt in 2008.”

As for the years to come, retailers expect the increasing demand for micronutrients continue, particularly with the involvement of China and India as huge consumers. “Once people started getting fed well, they kind of like the idea of being fed well,” Benefield says.

Leave a Reply

Micronutrients Stories

MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
MicronutrientsReport: Demand For Zinc As Micronutrient In Agriculture Grows
May 12, 2014
Zinc is becoming more important to increasing crop yields as global population and food consumption continue to rise. Read More
Sulfur Deficiency In Corn
Micronutrients3 Key Questions For Sulfur Application
February 3, 2014
Match sulfur supply to corn crop’s needs to maximize yields and fertilizer dollars. Read More
Micronutrients11 Tips For Effective Fall Application Of Gypsum
September 26, 2013
Spreading gypsum – which often occurs in late fall, after harvest – is simple if you follow these basic steps from GYPSOIL. Read More

Trending Articles

HerbicidesAdjusting To The New Reality Of Weed Control
November 4, 2014
Even with new cropping systems being readied for market introductions, weed control will remain a challenge for many. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More

Latest News

soybean field
Crop InputsABM Patents Microbial R&D Technique
November 25, 2014
Focused Microbial Diversity (FMD) is a newly patented technique employed by Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) to research and develop microbials that will be used in ABM products Read More
Crop InputsStorage Options Help Grain Growers Go To Market
November 24, 2014
While on-farm storage in a traditional upright storage bin is one possibility for storing grain, it may not be for everyone. Read More
Eric SfiligojGiving Thanks For Another Great Year
November 24, 2014
As Thanksgiving Day 2014 arrives, agriculture has plenty to be thankful for. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Cost-Cutting Program To Affect 1,800 Jobs
November 24, 2014
The company's Accelerating Operational Leverage program will result in job reductions and relocations totaling around 1,800 across the company, the majority of which will occur in 2015. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Operator Of The Year Finalists
November 20, 2014
Four custom applicators have been selected by AGCO Application Equipment as finalists for 2014 Operator of the Year, an honor that recognizes them as being among the top professionals in their industry throughout North America. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 20, 2014
H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
soybean field
FertilizerGeneral Mills Honors United Suppliers For Nitrogen Opti…
November 19, 2014
United Suppliers winning proposal detailed SUSTAIN, a consulting network that provides customized products and services for farmers using a needs-based system approach. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholar…
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
ManagementServi-Tech Names New CEO
November 17, 2014
Servi-Tech has named Greg Ruehle its new president and CEO. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Ag Acquires Colorado Aerial Application Outlet
November 17, 2014
Ft. Lupton, CO-based Reck Aviation — a full-service chemical application company providing aerial crop applications of fertilizers and crop protection products — will operate as part of Pinnacle's AgOne Application Services brand. Read More
Eric SfiligojMcDonald’s Message: Biotech Crops Scarier Than Cancer
November 17, 2014
Despite their potential health benefits, one of the world’s largest potato users will pass on a new biotech offering. Read More
MicronutrientsWinField Releases 2014 NutriSolutions Results
November 14, 2014
A number of significant regional and national crop deficiency trends emerged from the 2014 WinField NutriSolutions tissue sampling program. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Opens Chinese Production Lines
November 14, 2014
The occasion was the official launch of the Tiger-Sul sulphur Bentonite production line of two much anticipated fertilizer products in China, T90CR sulphur fertilizer and TZinc micronutrient enhanced sulphur fertilizer. Read More
ManagementOhio Certified Crop Adviser Program Accepting Nominatio…
November 14, 2014
The award recognizes an individual who delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production in Ohio. Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta Announces Acuron Trial Plot Results
November 14, 2014
Acuron was tested at 167 trial locations across 35 states. Trials included 95 Syngenta locations, 54 university locations and 18 distributor locations. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Expands Sales Force
November 13, 2014
The new sales representatives will work with growers, retail partners and distributors to oversee technical training and product education. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Raises $100K For Wounded Warrior Project
November 13, 2014
AGCO Corp. partnered with local AGCO dealers across the U.S. and Canada to raise nearly $100,000 in support of wounded service veterans. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Launch Of Enlist Duo Herbici…
November 12, 2014
It will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Read More