September 10, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

With high natural gas prices, so too are the prices for nitrogen fertilizer digging into the pocketbooks of farmers.

With prices high and expected to remain that way, farmers need to maximize their use of fertilizer.

Eighty percent of the cost of nitrogen production is natural gas and the cost of natural gas has increased by 150 percent due to short supplies, said Lloyd Murdock, an agronomist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Short supplies are expected to last two to four years. But nitrogen costs shouldn’t increase 150 percent because more foreign supplies will be shipped into the country, with the exception of anhydrous ammonia. However, as with oil, the nitrogen will be priced at a level they think the market will bear, he said.

“So that means we are going to have to be more efficient in using nitrogen in order to keep costs down,” Murdock said.

Rotating with legumes will help reduce nitrogen rates and corn after corn will become less attractive, he said.

Farmers using animal manures as a part of their fertility program need to make proper distribution across the fields and give proper nitrogen credits to the applications that are made, he said. That results in better crop fertility and a safe, economical way of utilizing the manure.

When using commercial fertilizers, pay attention to using the proven rates that provide the most economic outcome. In the past, when nitrogen was cheaper, farmers often used higher levels, Murdock said.

“These ‘insurance’ levels may become too expensive,” he said. ”With scales, weigh wagon and yield monitors, a farmer can fine tune nitrogen rates for their farm.”

On no-till, farmers may need to begin injecting their nitrogen, and sidedressing also will be important. On wetter soils, sidedressing will help reduce nitrogen rates and nitrification inhibitors can help reduce nitrogen loss. Agrotain used with sidedressed urea applications will also help reduce nitrogen needs.

By maximizing their nitrogen use, farmers may be able to minimize the pinch the higher costs put on their pocketbooks.

“We can be efficient and keep the costs down to levels not too much higher than in the past,” Murdock said.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Lloyd Murdock, 270-365-7541 ext. 207