After a rapid planting season, farmers were happy to get an early start on spraying. Rains helped early applications, but other farmers were not so lucky.
Eric Wilson, agronomy manager with Wyffels Hybrids, said there were many farmers with lots of replant to do after hail came through central Iowa in early May. But with a dry forecast for early June, it may be more difficult to get those activating rains for herbicide.
“It’s been a tale of two worlds,” he said. “Some places just got absolutely pounded with rains, but we’ve been dry too. The question of ‘if we got activation’ is a tough one to answer broadly.”
In a year when speed has been the theme to planting, supply hasn’t been much of a problem for farmers, whether it’s herbicide or post-plant fertilizer.
“People have been able to move pretty fast this year,” said Wilson. “From what I’ve seen, there haven’t been many issues other than things we can’t quite control.”
Wilson said the limited effectiveness of herbicide applications could be an issue in some later-planted fields, particularly if the forecast doesn’t change. However, many crops were planted in great conditions which has given them a head start on shading out weeds.
Fertilizer applications should be on target, Wilson said, which will also help the crop in the early portion of the growing season.
From a price perspective, this is a “normal” year for fertilizer, according to Wilson. Prices have continued to decrease throughout the year. According to a DTN survey for the week ending May 19, anhydrous was 10% less expensive compared to the previous month, coming in with an average price of $895 per ton.
“Nitrogen has certainly come down since last fall, which is kind of an anomaly,” Wilson said. “Usually spring prices are higher than the previous fall’s price.”
Compared to 2022, all fertilizers have dipped considerably in price, with the survey showing each at a more than 15% decrease over the last 12 months.
The lower costs should encourage those who may not have acquired their supply ahead of the season to get their stock now.
“If corn looks a little yellow, it probably needs a shot of nitrogen,” Wilson said. “In those areas that didn’t get heavy rainfall events, I would suspect we’ve had pretty minimal nitrogen loss outside of those areas. But there are pockets where I’m pretty certain we’ve lost some nitrogen.”
Kenneth Scott Zuckerberg, analyst with CoBank’s energy division, wrote earlier this year that fertilizer prices have continued to drop from the historic highs set in 2022, in spite of higher energy costs in other sectors, such as gasoline, and general inflation. He said a warmer- than-usual winter in Europe also helped with more supply.
He did caution that fertilizer prices may be nearing a low point soon, however. Record profits in 2022 helped bring prices down, but the pressures of inflation and outside markets may force increases soon.
“Ag retailers face several risks that could depress profit margins and challenge traditional business models in the years ahead,” he said.