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Economic Nitrogen Fertilizer for Corn

Economic Nitrogen Fertilizer for Corn

Tool helps manage fertilizer costs and figure in residual values too.

Nitrogen fertilizer costs increase every year it seems, and corn is the crop that needs the most of the valuable commodity to get high production. The price relationship between fertilizer and corn drives the economic optimum for application. A group of Extension Soils faculty at the University of Nebraska has developed a spreadsheet tool that will help determine the profit maximizing rate for nitrogen for a farm's combination of fertilizer cost and corn price - optimizing nitrogen rates for corn. This spreadsheet will work best in areas that do not leach out residual nitrogen in the spring like the UNL algorithm is set up.

Gary Hergert, Richard Ferguson, Charles Shapiro, and Daniel Walters developed the spreadsheet to include economic principles into the nitrogen fertilization decision-making process as corn prices began to increase in the late 2000s. The higher corn prices have pushed economic thresholds for corn production higher unless fertilizer prices move up at a faster rate. This price relationship remains the key to maximizing profits on the farm and the UNL spreadsheet allows farmers to work with different price projections and application methods in developing a fertilizer program to optimizd nitrogen rates for corn. The spreadsheet is designed to work with different fertilizer products, application methods, and number of treatments to develop total cost of nitrogen for the season.

We're featuring the spreadsheet as our Farm Futures Spreadsheet of the Month. The 200-kilobyte spreadsheet should work with Excel 2000, 2002, 2010 or Excel XP. You can download it using the link below.

Do you have a spreadsheet that's made a difference on your operation that you'd be willing to share with other readers? Drop us a line at with a description of the spreadsheet. We'll pay $75 if we feature your farmer-written noncommercial program as our Spreadsheet of the Month.

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