DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Illinois Farmer Touts Advantages of 4R Nutrient Strategy

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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The average price of UAN28 the third week of November 2017 was $216 per ton, 5% higher than the previous month. UAN28 is currently 1% less expensive than it was a year ago. (DTN chart)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The three Rs have long been seen as the foundation of a well-rounded education. Now some farmers are touting the four Rs as a way to achieve a well-rounded nutrient strategy.

Illinois farmer Grant Strom discussed farmer innovation in adopting the 4R nutrient strategy in a presentation during the 2017 Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference held last week in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Dahinda, Illinois, farmer is co-owner/operator of Strom Farms, a corn and soybean operation.

Strom was invited to speak as the 2017 The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) 4R Advocate award winner. The 4R nutrient strategy is the right sources, at the right rate, at the right time, and the right place.

Strom said his farming operation adopted the 4Rs for several different reasons. The variability of conditions in their fields, the need to increase fertilizer efficiency and talk of increased regulations moved him to use the strategies on his acres, he said.

This has led to some wholesale changes in nutrient application on his farm, Strom said.

In the past, Strom said, he would apply enough phosphorus (p) and potash (k) for two years in one application, but he has now changed to just one-year applications. When applying nitrogen, he has moved away from fall application and now applies all of his nitrogen in the spring or in-season applications.

"It comes down to economics for us," Strom said. "We have increased fertilizer efficiency with less pounds per bushel produced, which saves us money."

Strom said there are major barriers that can prevent farmers from fully implementing the 4R nutrient strategy on their farms.

With the different applications of nutrients throughout the growing season, there is an increase in equipment costs. This can be a huge hurdle for smaller or lower-capital operations to overcome, he said.

Another barrier is the amount of time implementing these different strategies can take for farmers. Strom said he could literally spend days with his agronomists figuring out all the products and approaches to apply fertilizer more efficiently.

The fertilizer industry is also not fully equipped to handle the shift to the 4R nutrient strategy, at least not in his region. He pointed to anhydrous ammonia as a product that is often applied in the fall, which probably shouldn't be, he said.

Strom said the best way to convince other farmers the 4Rs work is to point out big yields are possible and the potential to save and make money. Both of these are achievable with the 4R nutrient strategy, he said.

"Farmers are business owners, they obviously care about the environment but they also have to be economically viable," he said.


Retail fertilizer prices continued a trend of mixed moves the third week of November 2017, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.

Five of the eight major fertilizers were higher compared to last month, with only one up by a noteworthy amount. UAN28 was 5% higher compared to the previous month and had an average price of $216 per ton.

The remaining four fertilizers were just slightly higher in price. DAP had an average price of $435/ton, MAP $459/ton, anhydrous $410/ton and UAN32 $272/ton.

Three fertilizers were lower in price compared to a month earlier, including one considerably lower. 10-34-0 was down 14% from last month with an average price of $356/ton.

The remaining two fertilizer were just slightly lower. Potash had an average price of $342/ton and urea $339/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.37/lb.N, anhydrous $0.25/lb.N, UAN28 $0.39/lb.N and UAN32 $0.43/lb.N.

Four fertilizers are now higher compared to last year. MAP is 3% more expensive, urea is 4% higher, UAN32 is 6% more expensive and potash is now 9% more expensive.

The remaining four fertilizers are lower compared to a year prior. Both DAP and UAN28 are 1% less expensive while anhydrous is 12% lower and 10-34-0 is 20% less expensive.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to 2010 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

Nov 14-18 2016 436 445 315 327
Dec 12-16 2016 433 443 320 333
Jan 9-13 2017 432 441 320 338
Feb 6-10 2017 431 448 330 354
Mar 03-10 2017 436 460 336 361
Apr 3-7 2017 438 466 338 354
May 1-5 2017 436 466 339 351
May 29-Jun 2 2017 436 471 340 339
Jun 26-30 2017 437 470 340 333
Jul 24-28 2017 434 462 338 308
Aug 21-25 2017 434 458 338 304
Sep 18-22 2017 429 452 345 312
Oct 16-20 2017 432 452 348 340
Nov 13-17 2017 435 459 342 339
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Nov 14-18 2016 445 466 219 256
Dec 12-16 2016 444 463 219 257
Jan 9-13 2017 437 467 222 258
Feb 6-10 2017 440 485 238 273
Mar 03-10 2017 441 503 246 279
Apr 3-7 2017 441 505 248 280
May 1-5 2017 436 508 247 280
May 29-Jun 2 2017 436 503 248 280
Jun 26-30 2017 435 484 238 268
Jul 24-28 2017 425 423 229 265
Aug 21-25 2017 419 417 216 248
Sep 18-22 2017 416 402 211 248
Oct 16-20 2017 413 397 205 262
Nov 13-17 2017 356 410 216 272

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

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Russ Quinn