If you had to walk in cold and buy all your inputs, including nitrogen and phosphorus, plus potash and starter fertilizer, in the next few days, at current prices, you might think twice about just how much fertilizer you need, especially for P and K. Input prices are apparently swinging back and forth as violently as commodity prices, although commodity prices swung drastically lower last week, while input prices stayed high.
Reports put anhydrous ammonia at $800 to $900 per ton if you have to buy it now without previous locked-in prices. How widespread those prices are isn't clear. The same reports peg various forms of phosphate fertilizer in the $700 per ton range. That product was considering extremely high in December when prices were in the $530 per ton range. Now it's into the stratosphere as far as price is concerned.
Obviously, many of you already have product locked in. so the high prices may not affect you. But if you still have some to buy at these prices, it may be cause to look at the soil maps a second time to see which areas truly need fertilizer, and which could wait, at least for a while.
Farmers are apparently responding to the changing sea of crop and input prices in a variety of ways. One family of farmers who no-tills in central Indiana were doing so without starter in the past, but will use starter this year. They even changed planters so they could set up to apply starter. Their intent is to apply a blend of 10-34-0 and 28% N. before you wonder if they can even get those products or not, rest assured that they have already lined up these products well in advance. For them, trading planters rather than equipping their existing planter with starter fertilizer attachments and tanks, made more economic sense, they note.
Elsewhere, farmers who have avoided anhydrous ammonia are reconsidering. Even though it's super-expensive, it's still a more economical choice of N than about any other source, especially if you bought it before prices went crazy.
Another farmer reported that he has nearly all the inputs he needs in stock, with the 'plowdown' fertilizer, primarily phosphate and potash, already on the fields. He purchased those products in late summer, took delivery, and spread on his fields after harvest last fall.
The only input he didn't stock in sufficient quantities is diesel fuel. "I bought a load, but the price went up near $3in December, and I thought it would be cheaper later, so we didn't get the second load," he says. Now diesel fuel is nearly a $1 a gallon higher. No one can make the right decision each and every time.