Even with many new cost-cutting cropping developments, no-tillers are definitely worried about having to deal with increasing input costs in 2009.

Proof that growers will face increased input costs came earlier this summer with an announcement from Monsanto. The company’s triple-stacked corn hybrids for insect and weed control will be priced 20% higher for 2009. Company officials estimate that triple-stack hybrids were used on 15% to 20% of this year’s crop. The firm’s Roundup Ready soybeans will be 30% higher.

Fertilizer Worries

Like many farmers, Dean Fehl is concerned about increasing input costs. A long-term no-tiller and strip-tiller at La Porte City, Iowa, he’s invested extensively in GPS and auto-steer.

While he applies nearly all corn fertilizer in the fall in strip-tilled berms to save dollars and to spread out the fall and spring workload, Fehl is thinking about cutting back on fertilizer rates this fall as a means of avoiding sky-high nutrient prices.

Ken McCauley of White Cloud, Kan., sees still more emphasis being placed on overcoming yield losses. “You can’t afford to lose any yield with $7 corn because input costs will likely be even higher next year,” says the no-tiller of 3,000 acres of corn and 1,000 acres of soybeans.

McCauley says nutrient use with corn has improved in recent years as shown below. He expects to see much more efficient use of fertilizer coming in the future.

Know Your Costs

Looking at nitrogen, Marion Calmer’s on-farm research data has certainly had an impact on the amount of nitrogen he uses with higher corn prices as shown below. The Alpha, Ill., no-tiller cites data gathered from his farming operation over a total of 32 years to make his case.

He says data from both 1975 and 2007 indicates that an application of 140 pounds of nitrogen per acre resulted in an additional 65 bushels of corn per acre vs. applying no nitrogen.

“In 1975, this nitrogen application cost $14 per acre and resulted in an additional $130 of corn, which was $116 above the additional cost,” says Calmer. “In 2007, the 140 pounds of nitrogen cost $84, but resulted in an additional $390 of corn, which was $306 above the nutrient cost.”

Know Payback

With higher prices for both corn and fertilizer, Calmer says no-tillers need to take a closer look at analyzing the payback on applying additional nitrogen.

“If commodity prices continue to go up, we’ll see many new ways to boost yields and expand margins in order to adopt new practices,” says Calmer.

“There’s a tremendous potential out there for higher yields, more efficiency and higher profits. We’re only in the early innings when it comes to boosting yields.”