As corn planting time has approached this year, growers have had a lot of questions — just as in 2008 — about how high fertilizer prices might go.

Bracing for the inevitable, some producers booked early, while others made fall applications.

“I had a lot of calls back in November and December from growers who wanted to know if they should go ahead and put out their fertilizer or at least go ahead and buy because they were afraid prices would go up,” said Glen Harris, University of Georgia soil scientist, speaking at the Georgia Corn Short Course held recently in Tifton.

“I’m not a big fan of storing fertilizer or of fall fertilization in the South,” says Harris. “It’s a different story in the Midwest, where it’s frozen. It also depends on the nutrient. We can put out phosphorus in the fall because it’s immobile. But nitrogen is very mobile. If you put it out in November or December and don’t plant corn until February or March, with no cover crop — we don’t know how much nitrogen will be left out there.”

Growers have had some issues with potassium because it gets fairly mobile in Georgia soils, he adds.

Looking at the recent history of fertilizer prices, nitrogen peaked at about 85 cents per pound in 2008, and went from about 45 cents last year to about 60 cents this year, says Harris. Phosphorus is up from 25 cents last year to about 45 cents this year. Potassium was about 12 cents per pound for a long time, he says, peaked at around 80 cents, came down slowly, and now has leveled off at about 50 cents, but it’s likely to increase.

The good news, he says, is that commodity prices are up, and that helps.