Farmers should anticipate seeing a significantly lower fertilizer bill for 2014 than for other recent cropping years, say industry analysts. Just how low that cost might be will depend greatly on how well farmers can time both their purchases and applications, particularly for nitrogen, the analysts point out.

“It’s looking like a much better year than last year to price fertilizer for both fall and spring applications,” says Chad Hart, an Iowa State University agricultural economist. “We’re seeing significant cuts in fertilizer prices for N, phosphate and potash compared to this time last year. As a result, farmers can expect to see sizable reductions in fertilizer costs for 2014, especially when making purchases this fall.”

A farmer in a corn-soybean rotation should expect to pay about 20% less for fertilizer in 2014 than in 2013, according to budget estimates from Purdue University. “In 2014, our ballpark estimate for farmers to fertilize their corn crop on average-productivity soil in Indiana is around $138/acre,” says Bruce Erickson, agronomy education distance and outreach director at Purdue. “Last year, our estimate was $176/acre, so that is $38/acre less to fertilize corn in 2014 than 2013.”

Unanticipated world events may cause Purdue’s estimates to change, but current fertilizer prices could be a boon to farmers who need to rectify soil-nutrient deficiencies, says Erickson, who also serves as agronomic education manager for the American Society of Agronomy.

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“For the 2014 crop, our numbers are based on ammonia at 42 cents/lb., phosphate at 50 cents/lb. and potash at 41 cents/lb.,” he says. “If good weather holds this fall, the lower prices we’re seeing right now would present a good opportunity to replenish any soil fertility needs that may have been put off for a while. Fertilizer applications were down in 2012, due to a wet fall in the eastern Corn Belt and extreme drought in the western Corn Belt.”

Wet conditions also deterred or delayed fertilizer applications for much of the Midwest earlier this year, notes Hart. “My guess is that a lot of farmers will be chomping at the bit to apply fertilizer this fall,” he says, “because of all the application problems they had this spring.”