As the price of anhydrous ammonia pushes over $500 perton, the question on everyoneʼs mind is, why are we seeing sucha sharp rise in fertilizer prices? It has to be more than just theincrease in the cost of natural gas or the hurricane disasters.According to a recent article by “The Fertilizer Institute,”since fertilizer is a commodity, the supply and demand factors inmajor world markets are having an impact on the price that U.S.farmers are paying for fertilizers. What are some of the primaryfactors that have resulted in these higher prices?The article pointed out that there has been an increased globaldemand for fertilizers in recent years that have played a largepart in putting pressure on fertilizer prices. From FY2000/01to FY2004/05, world fertilizer demand has increased by anestimated 20 million nutrient tons, or by 13%. This increase indemand alone is almost equivalent to the total nutrient usage inthe United States, which was 23.4 million nutrient tons duringthe 2003 to 2004 fertilizer usage period. Over this same timeperiod, world nitrogen demand rose by almost 10%, phosphateusage grew by 13% and potash usage rose an alarming 25%.In addition, the supply factor is also driving up fertilizerprices, especially nitrogen, due to the increased cost of naturalgas. Anhydrous ammonia is the source of almost all the nitrogenfertilizers produced in the world, and since it is produced bycombining nitrogen from the air with hydrogen from naturalgas, it stands to reason that an increase in the price of naturalgas will impact the price of anhydrous ammonia. Seventy to90% of the production cost of ammonia is due to the cost of natural gas. From 1999 to 2003, the latest year for which dataare available, the average U.S. ammonia production costsdoubled and the price of natural gas has continued to rise sincethat time. As a result of the high cost of natural gas and thesqueeze on production margins, U.S. ammonia production hasfallen by 34% in only ve years with the closing of 16 ammoniaplants and the idling of an additional ve plants. Consequently,the United States now relies on imports for nearly 45% of itsnitrogen supplies which has risen from 15% during the 1990s.It appears in the near term, higher prices for fertilizers aregoing to be with us. Soil testing is even more critical duringthese times of high cost. Visit with your Crop Quest agronomistabout how you can protect your yields while making the mostefcient use of your fertilizer dollars.
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With the cost of diesel fuel and petroleum-based productssoaring, farmers across the country are looking for ways toreduce application costs. Crop Questʼs precision agricultureleader, Nathan Woydziak, and Kyle Aljoe, a Crop Questagronomist working in Dimmitt, Texas, have used computer-directed (applied by air) variable application rates to improveefciency of both application and production of cotton.Woydziak says, “This is the rst year we have worked withthe concept of varying application rates by air. We have usedground application successfully for several years, using GridSampling as the basis for varying rates of fertilizer and otherfarm chemicals.”The rst use of the new application technology was done inJuly on eight cotton elds in west Texas. “So far the cotton looksgood and the aerial applicator was very pleased with how easythe system was to use,” notes Aljoe. “It allows the applicatorto make only one pass across the eld, instead of having tomake a second pass across parts of the eld where the cotton isgrowing.”Woydziak explains that Crop Quest agronomists use SSTSummit
Pro software to collect and store data. “We havedigital eld maps loaded into SST Summit Pro which allowsus to break the eld into management zones,” he says. “Oncethe zones are created, Kyle sends them to us, where wefurther process the data using Del Norteʼs FliteTrac
2005software. Finally the rened formulations are sent back to Kyleand the aerial applicator,” Woydziak explains.“Thus far, we have been focusing on cotton, because it issimple to see the benets,” notes Aljoe. In the future, Aljoe andWoydziak agree that once they get more procient using thetechnology, there will likely be other situations in which variablerate aerial application will be advantageous for other crops.For more information on ground or aerial application, contactyour local Crop Quest agronomist. By the 2006 crop year, eachCrop Quest agronomist will have SST Summit Pro software andwill be able to assist in planning more precise ways to managecrops to reduce overall fuel usage.
Variable Rate Aerial ApplicationIncreases Efficiency in Texas Cotton
7.73 gal/ac3.87 gal/ac5.80 gal/ac4.83 gal/ac3.87 gal/ac
FliteTrac™ 2005 is a registered trademark of Del Norte Technology, Inc.SST Summit™ Pro is a registered trademark of Site-Specic Technology Development Group, Inc.
This map shows how different parts of one of the Texascotton elds received varying amounts of growth regulator.Traditionally one application rate is used, thus, some partsof the eld would get too much chemical and some parts not enough.
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