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Nitrogen is nitrogen, phosphorus is phosphorus and potassium is potassium!Nitrogen is nitrogen, phosphorus is phosphorus and potassium is potassium!

Crops consultant explains why it's important to do the math when figuring out best fertilizer options.

Tom Bechman 1

March 8, 2016

2 Min Read

You can hear and read all kinds of information when it comes to which options are best for fertilizing your corn and soybean corp. Especially when it comes to starter fertilizer, there is a wide range in products on the market. Many are very good, high quality products. But many also carry a high price tag. Is the extra cost worth it?

Indiana Prairie Farmer listened at a farmer meeting recently as John Mackson presented his view on fertilizer cost. He is a consultant with Dennings & Associates in Pinconning, Michigan. Here are his thoughts, broken down in question and answer form.

Question: Does it matter what sources of nitrogen I use?


Mackson: As far as the plant is concerned, nitrogen is nitrogen, phosphorus is phosphorus and potassium is potassium.

Is one form of nitrogen always cheaper than another?

Mackson: You need to do the math. How much does it cost you per unit of N that you are purchasing? Right now in some areas, one form may be lower priced than usual compared to another. You need to calculate what your cost is for the pounds of actual N that you are applying.

Related: Corn is corn when it comes to soil fertility

What about pop-up fertilizer? I have a chance to buy a 6-24-6 pop-up - is that a good deal?

Mackson: Most everything out there is a good material. The question becomes is it overpriced for what you are getting. You are getting so many pounds of each nutrient, and that’s it. You need to calculate what it is costing you per pound of nutrient compared to what it would cost you if you applied a different fertilizer or applied it in a different way.

If someone is willing to supply you the equipment to put on pop-up, doesn’t that make it a good deal?

Mackson: Again, it all comes back to price. If someone is helping you equip your planter to apply pop-up, they likely want a long-term commitment that you are going to use their product. Before you make the commitment, you need to do the math. Figure out how many units of each nutrient you are getting per acre with the product and figure cost per pound. Then figure out how much it would cost to apply those same pounds of nutrients in another way. Do the math before you commit to a long-term agreement.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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