Will harvest limit fertilizer sales and impact fall application?

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Grain driers are likely to really be busy this fall. When driving from Kansas City to central Illinois twice during late August to attend outdoor farm shows, I didn’t see any corn showing dry down.

Listening to meteorologists and reading weather predictions must be worrisome to farmers. Most of the weather analysis has showed cold weather and frost potential earlier than average in large portions of the Midwest.

An early fall following an extremely late spring planting doesn’t match very nicely. With fall harvest taking up the time of farmers, there is the potential for fall fertilizer purchases and applications to be less than average. If farmers have the potential for some good October fall fertilizer prices especially nitrogen, what will happen?

Nitrogen fertilizer use was the topic of a threeday conference in Kansas City during August. A lot of focus was on nitrogen and fertilizer application timing—spring, fall and in-season.

The conference was sponsored by Wood Hole Research Center, International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and The Fertilizer Institute.

The Soil Science Society of America was heavily involved, too. The conference had several objectives including looking for information about new technologies related to N use, encouraging development of policies and projects to improve nutrient management and coming up with recommended actions and technology.

From nearly everything discussed and presented at the conference, N is seen as being best applied as close as possible to the time when a crop will need it and giving a boost to crops at optimum times. A lot of worry centers around water pollution because of nutrient runoff.

Another big part of the conference included information about farmer attitudes and how farmers are not easily swayed in changing practices, even if the economics support change. Farmer change has a better chance of occurring if ag retailers and crop consultants support changes and new technology.

Research presented showed that Extension service personnel are less trusted than ag retailers and crop consultants. Of course, government officials and regulators are not trusted or liked.

In a meeting dominated by university professors, university graduate students and trade association personnel, it was interesting how they knew they aren’t going to be the ones that change the world. But they do hope that the crop consultants and ag retailers listen to what they’re determining and take it to farmers.

There were a few crop consultants and private companies represented at the conference, and ag professionals are the ones who are being pressured to do the right thing. If the most trusted ag professionals buy into new technology and programs, they can spread the word and practices for adoption by their customers and clients.

In my way of thinking, change in nutrient management and fertilizer application of new fertilizer technology products must occur, and we might be closer to required changes than a lot of farmers and their third-party advisors think.

Mandatory change just might be around the corner as shown by each of the states in the Mississippi River watershed being required to develop nutrient management plans. The expectations or goals are extremely high or aggressive in each of these plans to meet the reduction in nutrient runoff.

Those outdoor trade shows where I saw all that new equipment and technology was interesting, but more innovations will be needed to assist farmers in meeting goals. Changes in philosophy, attitude and practices will be necessary by farmers.


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