Fertilizer Sees Drastic Decline Among No-Tillers

No-tillers were conservative in their fertilizer use in 2016 for both corn and soybeans, and plan to continue cutting back in 2017.

As no-tillers tightened their belts even more in 2016 due to continued low crop prices, fertilizer took one of the biggest hits.

Readers who participated in the 9th annual No-Till Operational Benchmark Study spent an average $55,419 on fertilizer in 2016, over $20,000 less from the $75,555 spent in 2015 — a 26.7% decrease. This brought their per-acre cost on fertilizer from $65.93 in 2015 to $48.07 last year.

Results from last year’s study indicate readers didn’t expect to cut as much from their fertilizer as they did. Last year, growers estimated they’d spend $68,938 on fertilizer, or $60.15 per acre.

It doesn’t look like this downward trend will change. This year, no-tillers on average are planning to cut another $4,234 in fertilizer costs, for a budget of $51,185, or $44.39 per acre. If they plan to meet that budget or stay under it, no-tillers will have cut their fertilizer budget by at least 40% from the $85,153 average spent just 3 years ago in 2014.

Conserving Nitrogen

Despite the drastic cutbacks, corn fertilizer practices generally remained unchanged from 2015.

Once again, half of no-tillers (50.4%) will apply 28% nitrogen (N) to their corn crop this year, slightly down from the 51.3% who used the source in 2016.


Another 37.2% will apply 32% N, up just over 2 points from 2015, while 26.7% will apply urea, up just over 4 points from 22.6%. Another 24.7% will use anhydrous ammonia (down from 27.6%), while 3.8% will apply ammonium nitrate (down from…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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