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Manager’s notebook: Gambling on fertilizer?

chas53/ThinkstockPhotos Farm tractor pulling anhydrous ammonia tanks fertilizing farmland
It’s risky to change field operations based solely on short-term price trends.

We grow quite a bit of corn on corn, and now I see nitrogen prices are trending higher for 2019. I’m thinking about holding off on N applications this fall to see where prices go by next spring. I realize it’s a gamble, but crop budgets are looking pretty tight. Thoughts? — S.A., Wisconsin

At face value, the logic of changing your field operations to see if prices go lower has some holes. What if prices keep rising? What if you can’t get all your N applied timely in the spring? 

Our prejudice is strong toward spring anhydrous with stabilizer vs. fall application. We have some soils that consistently lose late fall-applied anhydrous with stabilizer by the following late July or early August. You need to have the same understanding of your soils.

We split N applications using spring anhydrous, liquid 28% on the planter and sidedress UAN, as needed. In our case, only half the corn has justified sidedress N (at V10) the past two years. We have our own NH3 bulk holding tank and wagons, which have allowed us to buy in summer.

This price setting collusion (our opinion) in the anhydrous market is a bit scary, driven by the tariff war leading to more anticipated 2019 corn acre demand. But the marketing pros expect a correction by spring.

We see many very sharp agronomists spoon-feeding only UAN to a corn crop, but for us, the weather risk for application timeliness is too high without a substantial spring anhydrous application reserve already in the soil.

Jerry and Jason Moss operate Moss Family Farms Inc.


TAGS: Management
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