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Your fertilizer dollar is
an Investment — not an Expense!
by Dick Farst

Are fertilizers too high priced??? We agree they are higher priced than in the past last few years. However, when you compare fertilizer to many other INPUTS on the farm (fuel, tractors, cotton pickers, combines and most all machinery), we see that fertilizer has been selling too low for many years and has caught up all in one year.

Why? There are many reasons for higher prices. The most notable reason is supply and demand. Secondly, we in agriculture now live in a world market, not only the crops we raise and sell, but also the fertilizer inputs we buy. Domestic production of our nutrients has been curtailed over the past few years, and consolidation of major producers has limited the tons available to dealers and distributors across this nation. 

Fertilizer prices are very closely related to the price of natural gas (the basic raw material for all of our nitrogen products) and oil. The high price of oil and natural gas has caused production prices of all nutrients to climb to today’s prices and the cost of transportation has steadily increased this year. Transportation is one of our greatest costs; and with the number of production and shipping points cut to the lowest number in many years, freight costs have become an even a larger part of your fertilizer expense. Because of all these reasons prices have risen, but fertilizer is still a GOOD BUY! 

What Fertilizer Does For You!

# 1: First and foremost a good fertility program Increases Yield. We could use research for the last fifty years to show the increases in yield due to a good, sound fertility program. We are sure most of you know those results, but still consider cutting back in a year of higher prices. We want to discuss the other benefits to a GOOD FERTILITY PROGRAM.

# 2: Improves Quality (Grain, Lint, TDN). When we sell our crop we know what poor quality does to our pay check. Again research shows that a sound fertility program improves our chances of selling a high quality crop.

#3: Improves Protein. (Extremely important in livestock production.) Adequate fertilization raised protein content of grain, in many tests, from 7% to 10%

#4: Increases Disease Resistance in the Plant. Healthy plants come from adequate fertilization from starter to lay-by.

#5: Greatly Improves Weed Control. All of our herbicide programs relay on the crop to protect the bare soil through shading. A good fertility program allows for fast early growth and adequate shading of the soil.

#6: Improves Water Efficiency of the Plant. In well-fertilized soils the plant can produce the final crop on ONE FOURTH (1/4) the amount of water. With our normal summers and lack of rainfall this could be the greatest advantage of good fertility. Water is the key in our state and providing a good, sound fertility programs insures for the best water utilization possible without irrigation. If you are under irrigation fertility is as equally important to use the applied water efficiently.

#7: If we cut back on fertilizer, we find that in under fertilized soils more than 95 percent of the nitrogen and up to 75 percent of the phosphorus and other nutrients come from the breakdown of organic matter. This does not occur when growing seasons are not right because of being too wet or too dry. Adequately fertilized soil with nitrogen properly balanced with the other nutrients gives the greatest response. 

Nutrient Functions of the Plant

NITROGEN: The most important of all the nutrients. The air above the earth’s surface contains 80% by volume and 75% by weight nitrogen (N). The N above each acre is the equivalent to 107,700 tons of ammonium nitrate or 6,360,000 gallons of 32% nitrogen solutions. However, most plants other than legumes and a few other species cannot use atmospheric N directly and must relay on industry-fixed N.

Since N is a part of protoplasm and nuclei during the development of plant cell, there would be no development or growth in the absence of N. 

Many organic chemical compounds, such as proteins, nucleo-proteins, amines, amino acids, polypeptides, sugar complexes, etc. contain N. Even the green chlorophyll in plants which traps and converts solar energy into chemical energy, contains N. Many of the nitrogen compounds in plants are active in the manufacture and synthesis of non-nitrogenous compounds, such as sugars, starches, carbohydrates, etc. Nitrogen is a part of the genetic genes, chromosomes and the building blocks of living things.

PROSPHORUS: One of the key elements and plant nutrients needed for life is phosphorus (P). Phosphorus is mined from the soil and available in several forms. Phosphorus is very essential in all of the growing parts of plants, as it plays a major role in the synthesis of many of the organic compounds. The formation of sugars, starches, oils, etc. are related in some manner to the phosphorus compounds in the plant. It aids in the transformation of solar energy in chemical energy. Phosphorus compounds are stored in the seed to aid the germinating plants in their early energy requirements before it can utilize solar energy.

POTASSIUM: One of the essential elements required by plants, man and animals. It is found everywhere, except in the atmosphere. Potassium never occurs in its elemental state (K) or as K2O, but is always combined with other elements. It is mined in the solid state as potassium ore or using solution mining methods and the potassium brine is pumped to the surface from deep wells or from brines in such areas as the Great Salt Lake or Bonneville Lake.

Potassium is not a part of plant structure but plays the role of a chemical policeman. It keeps things moving:

• Increases root growth and improves drought resistance

• Builds cellulose and reduces lodging

• Helps translocate sugars and starch to the point in the plant where they are needed. Filling lint, grain etc.

• Encourages building of proteins.

• Aids in photosynthesis

• Aids over 40 enzyme actions and enzymes help control many plant functions.

• Improves quality of product

• Helps retard certain diseases

SULFUR: Another essential secondary plant food is sulfur. It is mined as a solid element form and is absorbed by plants largely in the sulfate form. Sulfur is an important part of every living cell. It is needed by plants for the synthesis of the amino acids cysteine and methionine. It is essential for protein formation and development. Sulfur has a part in the activity and development of enzymes and in the formation of vitamins. It promotes nodule formation on legumes and stimulates seed production in many plants.

For years you purchased sulfur-based fertilizer and we had sulfur emissions from burning high sulfur coal. That has all changed today and sulfur needs to be included in your fertility program.

Efficiency of Fertilizer Nutrients:

Your local Co-op store with the assistance of your Agriliance-AFC, LLC representative can help you plan your 2005 Fertilizer Program to Optimize your nutrient INPUTS with the Least Investment of your Fertilizer Dollar. Yes, fertilizer is an investment with an excellent rate of return even in the higher priced environment.  As we study the importance of each nutrient we can not afford to cheat in our investment, however, by using the most economical products and 

methods we can make those fertilizer dollars work best for you.

Much of Alabama experienced very high yields in 2004 and nutrient removals were large and we must replace those nutrients. Do not be “Penny wise and pound foolish;” make a sound fertilizer investment in 2005.

Dick Farst is the Terminal Manager for the Rattlesnake Bend location of Agriliance-AFC, LLC.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006