ISSUE 8   July 3, 2008

FERTILIZER USE 2007 AND A LOOK TO THE FUTURE

 

Product

1995

1998

2002

2004

2005

2006

2007

-1,000 tons sold -

NH3

350

367

296

309

322

278

387

Urea

295

319

416

522

501

487

520

AMS

7

25

46

45

51

42

60

11-52-0

123

184

252

320

336

356

439

18-46-0

222

176

123

113

95

49

32

0-0-60

45

50

49

44

40

39

57

Elem S

1

3

3

4

7

2

8

10-34-0

14

24

24

44

40

39

57

Total N

502

531

517

590

594

537

656

Total P2O5

184

201

210

243

243

232

273

Total K2O

43

34

33

38

37

35

44

Total S

3

8

13

13

20

13

23

In 2007, corn acres increased in ND and soybean acres decreased. The result was a dramatic increase in total N, P and K used. A wetter spring and signs of sulfur deficiency probably contributed to the increase in S. Not many years ago, most S applications were to canola, but recently S deficiencies have been present in many fields, so general use for small grains and corn has been more regular. Soil test K levels continue to decline as more soybeans and corn are raised and K is removed at a much faster rate than our small grain rotations of the past. As N costs increased, the percentage of total N as ammonia increased for the first time in many years. I expect that trend to continue through the first half of this year at least. Notice that MAP and DAP positions in use have dramatically changed since 1995. The phosphate mine sources that could easily make DAP have been depleted. The industry has changed its position, at least in the Northern Plains, to a MAP market. A concern to me is the recent increase in use of elemental S. The work by researchers in North Dakota and Canadian Provinces have repeatedly shown that elemental S is not nearly as efficient in supplying S as soluble sulfate forms such as ammonium sulfate. I fear that industry pressures on storage space and rate of S with seed issues is driving this poor agronomic practice. Hopefully, grower pressures and a change in industry marketing will reverse this trend. The use of 10-34-0 is expanding as new planters discontinue dry fertilizer boxes in favor of pumps and liquids. Note that use more than doubled in five years. Part of our problems with obtaining 10-34-0 this spring is likely that the demand was much higher in 2008 than even 2007.

If you are wondering where the demand for additional fertilizer is coming from, a small part of the reason is right here in North Dakota. In the last ten years, N demand has increased over 20%, P demand by about 50%, and S demand over 700%. Extrapolate that increased demand over the US and then add into that mix China and other emerging economies, and the pressures on supply are great.

Anhydrous ammonia is now somewhere near 70 cents/lb N. Urea is about 80 cents, and 28% about 90 cents. If anything will open doors for cheaper product it is these prices; not now, but in the future. Costs for natural gas are up, but these gas prices only support ammonia prices of 25-30 cents/lb N, not the current shortage price structure. I would encourage fall application in areas that do not have a problem with spring denitrification or leaching, but if a grower needs to wait until spring to apply, wait for deals. They won’t happen until later in the fall. Right now there is tremendous pressure on supplies due to Midwest rains, with the accompanying denitrification and leaching issues. The central corn belt usually has a significant amount of side-dressed N, and this was delayed in many areas and is now increasing pressure on dwindling ammonia and 28% supplies. In addition, still more growers will need to apply even more N if preplant or fall N was applied due to N losses. Supply will dictate price until late fall. If crop prices remain near the current levels, expect high prices through next year. Take your banker to dinner.

Dave Franzen
NDSU Extension Soil Specialist
701-231-8884
david.franzen@ndsu.edu


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