By Brian Cornelious, PhD, Director of Applied Sciences
Everyone has a favorite ride at the amusement park. Some treasure the predictability of the carousel, while others seek the thrill of the rollercoaster.
The more I ponder on this analogy, the more I begin to think of farming.
Some very traditional farmers live by the philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” while others ascribe to a more progressive approach of “It’s working pretty well, but I think I can make it even better.” Both ways of thinking have their benefits, but I speculate that we’ll need more of the latter philosophy as we move forward, especially in light of current conditions facing the modern farming industry.
Has Farming Been More Like a Carousel Ride or a Rollercoaster?
Let’s get back to the amusement park analogy for a moment and compare riding on the carousel versus rollercoaster from my own experiences with each:
I’m sure there are other things that you would add to the list, but, in the sense of what the farmer is facing today, I would bet the ride is more like the rollercoaster that the carousel, especially when you look at some of the major factors influencing crop production decisions:
- Commodity prices
- Fertilizer costs
- Seed costs
- Land cost
- Equipment costs
- Financing/operating capital
- Weather patterns
We could go into great detail about each of these factors, but let’s focus on the impact that commodity prices have on fertility practices. Let’s also look at how some of the management decisions based on this single factor might affect the productivity and profitability of today’s farmer.
Saying Goodbye to $7/Bushel Corn
The years of $7/bushel corn have passed, and when they’ll return is anyone’s guess. While the US farmer’s ability to produce record amounts of corn has been proven once again with the amazing 2014 crop, this record crop is placing pricing pressure on December new crop corn. Growers are now facing corn that’s under $4/bushel, and it may seem almost impossible to make a profit at this rate after figuring in production costs. This is giving many growers pause when it comes to any additional inputs beyond crop protection and their liquid or dry fertilizers. Some might even be thinking of scaling back on their fertility. What can growers do to stay profitable?
Nutrient Use Efficiency Is Key for Profitability
During periods of declining prices, it is critical to increase yields in order to lower the cost of production per bushel. That means increasing the efficiency of fertilizer inputs in the face of lower corn prices. This process will allow the grower to produce more bushels at a lower cost.
Most growers will apply dry phosphate (P) and potash (K) as a blend after harvest this fall. Dry fertilizer is considered a standard input for corn production, even though only 20-30% of the phosphate and 20-60% of the potash is available to next spring’s corn crop. The inefficiency of applied P & K isn’t really acceptable, but what can be done to improve nutrient use efficiency by releasing the P & K that get tied-up in the soil?
Titan PBA Can Help Growers Get the Most Out of Their Dry Fertilizer Inputs
The answer is to add biochemical fertilizer catalyst technology found in Titan PBA. In combination with a dry fertility program, Titan PBA increases the availability of applied nutrients and improves plant uptake and utilization. The increased efficiency of the fertilizer as a result of the Titan PBA allows growers to realize higher yields—as seen in the data below—and lower production costs per bushel.
I think most growers would agree that the past several years have been more like a rollercoaster ride than a carousel ride. However, uncertainty about commodity prices should not affect the attitudes towards using sound fertility programs to maintain or even increase yields. Adding biochemical technology to a dry fertility program can enhance nutrient use efficiency and increase yield potential—helping growers cope with the ups and downs of today’s rollercoaster ride.