Forward contracts, prepay
Williams says that, with fertilizer and fuel prices and land rents as high as they are, you should take advantage of forward contracts and lock in prices to cover your expenses. If you plan to prepay to help save on crop input costs, Williams recommends prepaying for fertilizer first, followed by seed and then crop protection products.
If you did not already make fall applications, you should lock in your spring supply, says Tom Warner, president, Crop Production Services (CPS), Galesburg, IL.
There was not much evidence that growers cut back on fertilizer rates this fall, Warner says, adding that most know from experience that high yields require sound fertility. “Growers with high P and K needs could cut back this year, but they know they are mining their soils and will have to catch up later if they want to continue improving yields,” he notes.
You can cut back a bit on P and K, especially if you use a starter fertilizer, Williams says. You can fertilize in-row, making nutrients more available to the plant. “We ran one trial this year and saw a 14-bu./acre yield advantage when we used starter fertilizer compared to an application with no starter fertilizer,” he says. This trial was in Wisconsin, which experienced a very cold spring in 2007.
Nitrogen fertilization is necessary to raise acceptable corn yields, says ISU's Sawyer. “Cutting below economic optimal rates will result in reduced yield and lower net return,” he says. “The same thing happens with over-fertilization, so it is important to look at proper fertilization rates and good management practices. There is no guarantee that fertilizer prices will be lower in the future, so not applying needed fertilization now might cost as much or more in the future.”