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Reader Finds a 'Catch' in 'Fertilizer Wisdom'

Here's setting the record straight about fertilizer prices.

Readers read Indiana Prairie Farmer and articles with a fine-tooth comb. That's as it should be. And when they're specialists of sorts, such as farmers who also run a fertilizer dealership, they're bound to catch statements that don't quite add up. Dave Dougherty and his brother, Bruce, Greenwood, Ind., both found an error in the January Indiana Prairie Farmer article 'Fine-tune fertilizer wisdom' on page 16 of the Crops Section.

"A customer called it to my attention," Dave says. "I read it and then asked my brother to read it. We scratched our head, but we were pretty sure we were calculating correctly and what was printed was in error."

Unfortunately, they were right. Here's setting the record straight. This 'brain-teaser' article posed several questions about fertilizer application and picking the most economical choice based upon price. All fertilizer prices are approaching record input cost levels, and that's not a mistake! You can take that one to the bank. In fact, the increase in prices has turned out to be more significant that was predicted when the original story was prepared and later appeared.

Question #4 in the True-False, 10-quesiton quiz read like this: 'You can buy 11-52-0 at $510 per ton or 18-46-0 at $540 per ton. Considering phosphate only, 18-46-0 is the better buy- true or false?'

Under the answers and explanation section, we reported it as 'true.' However, it's actually false, and our explanation indicated as much. We simply 'flipped' false for true, and didn't catch it in proofreading this story.

The answer should read: 'False- If you disregard N, P is 49cents per pound in 11-52-0 and 58 cents per pound in 18-46-0. However, assume 50 to 75% of this N applied in the fall will be available, depending on rainfall, temperatures and soil type."

Phosphorus prices reported widely now are even higher than they were then. Plus more farmers are reporting that they contact their normal supplier, only to find that the supplier may not be able to guarantee delivery this spring in time for application at any price. Some are trying to find dealers who can at least guarantee them that they can get the product in time for use this spring.

Some continue to insist that the large swing to corn after corn in '07 is partly responsible for shortages of some fertilizer products this spring, coupled with many other factors. They contend that the bump in corn acres in '07 caused farmers to apply more P and K than they normally would, since they apply more for corn than for soybeans in typical situations. As a result the pipeline nearly dried up after spring planting season ended in '07, and has not been satisfactorily replenished. What happens to fertilizer supplies and possibly prices in the near-term future may depend on how the crop mix winds up this year. Some report more farmers are tending to go back to their old corn and soybean rotations, with high-priced soybeans helping fuel that argument. But in the end, the market will bid for acres for various crops through prices linked to supply and demand. Meanwhile, the best you can do is adopt a 'wait and see' attitude.

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