Offset costs with manure
Manure can be a good source of N for corn production and certainly can offset N fertilizer use. But it takes extra planning and effort to use manure as a nutrient resource, Sawyer says. “Not all manure nutrients are crop-available in the year of application, so some differential account for that is needed when determining the value of manure [which depends on its source],” he says.
Manure becomes more valuable as fertilizer prices increase, especially when P and K prices, as well as N prices, are high. Manure is more valuable when applied to fields that need P and K in addition to N, says Purdue's Camberato. However, he says, N availability is more uncertain with manure than anhydrous or 28% UAN, so you should consider applying a portion of the N requirement with manure and the remainder with inorganic fertilizer to reduce the risk of over- or under-applying N.
He also recommends using the pre-sidedress nitrate test (PSNT) to check on soil N supply in manured fields before deciding to sidedress N in corn.
Another option is to hire custom application. Dick Stiltz, Lincoln Land FS, Jacksonville, IL, says you should not dismiss custom work because you think the cost is too high. In many cases, it makes more sense to hire custom application services than to do it yourself when you factor in fuel, labor liability and other costs, Stiltz says.
He agrees with Warner that if you did not already make fall applications, you should lock in your spring supply. In fact, he cautions that if you do not already have fertilizer contracted, you may be shut out of getting what you need for spring.