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

Dry Blend of Micronutrients
Crop InputsMicronutrients 2015: Making Hay In A Down Market
September 5, 2015
Going into 2015, downward trending commodity prices were identified as a possible threat to sales revenues of micronutrient fertilizer products, Read More
Corn Field
MicronutrientsHuma Gro Introduces New Boron Liquid Nutrient Formulation For Crops
August 28, 2015
BORO-MAX, a new boron (B) 10% liquid nutrient formulation, has been added to the Huma Gro product line. This new Read More
Crop InputsWinField: Here’s What We’re Seeing So Far This Season
June 25, 2015
One of the most important things you can do throughout the season to help increase yield potential is to ensure Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Life Sciences Invests In People, Agricultural Technology
June 22, 2015
In mid-February, the USDA released its new 10-year agriculture projections. While the numbers are new, the theme was consistent. The 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