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

Corn Field
Crop InputsUltra Yield Micronutrients Acquires Kronos Micronutrients
March 16, 2017
Ultra Yield Micronutrients, Inc. ”Ultra”, an affiliate of Cameron Chemicals, Inc., is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Read More
Tissue Sampling
Crop InputsMicronutrients Remain A Piece Of Yield Puzzle In 2017
February 4, 2017
There are a couple different market forces working on the micronutrients segment currently in U.S. agriculture. Most impactful, of course, Read More
Fertilizer Tender close-up
MicronutrientsHow Micronutrients Fit Into 2017 Fertility Plans
January 10, 2017
Where do micronutrients stand going forward in fertility plans? For one thing, Tim Mundorf, Field Representative with Midwest Laboratories, says Read More
Trey Curtis, Concept Ag owner
MicronutrientsConcept Ag Debuts TransMaxx Technology For Foliar Applications Of Calcium, Other Nutrients
December 15, 2016
Concept Ag Soil & Plant Nutrition has launched TransMaxx Technology, an innovative translocation technology for foliar feeding crop fertility products. 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