Fertilizers claim much of the input costs for growing crops and a Clemson University specialist says that, especially with today’s fertilizer prices, precise input management is important.
Bhupinder Farmaha, a nutrient management specialist housed at the Clemson Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, South Carolina, and Clemson Cooperative Extension Service agent, recently conducted a Zoom meeting to talk about crop fertilizer needs. Among row crops, corn demands the most in fertilizer costs.
“For corn, 37% of the input operating costs goes to fertilizer,” Farmaha said. “Because fertilizer prices are continually increasing, it is very important for growers to precisely manage fertilizer inputs.”
Several factors, including increased costs in nitrogen, phosphate and potash, have attributed to the climb in fertilizer prices. These prices have doubled since the end of 2020 when prices were about $400 per ton. Nitrogen recommendations for corn are based on yield goals. For phosphorus and potassium, farmers should account for sub-soil fertility by taking 6-inch to 12-inch samples.
“Right now, we are at more than $800 per ton,” Farmaha said. “Because fertilizer prices have doubled, managing inputs has become quite challenging. So, farmers should set realistic goals this year.”
Understanding the roles nutrients play in maximizing yields helps growers understand where they can cut and still profit. Soil tests and lime to adjust soil acidity levels are two items that should not be cut, Farmaha said. Soil tests can show growers the level of nutrients already in the soil, indicating where less fertilizer is needed. When the soil acidity level, or pH, is found to be less than required for a crop, a liming adjustment is recommended to bring the soil pH to the “Target pH.”