Cotton and grain farmers may want to dig a little deeper this winter as they test soils for nutrient levels.

The high cost of fertilizer suggests that producers need to get back to the basics to improve nutrient management efficiency, says Mark McFarland, Texas AgriLife Extension sol fertility specialist.

Two factors make nutrient management more important this year. Those fertilizer prices, which hit historical highs last year of up to $1 per pound, in addition to failed crops on many acres, mean some farmers have valuable residual fertilizers in the soil.

Speaking at the grains session of the Blacklands Income Growth (B.I.G.) conference in Waco, McFarland says nutrient prices have leveled off a bit in recent months but “are still way up there. Nutrient management is extremely important. We can’t do anything about high prices. All we can do is look at how we can manage better.

“Focus on the basics—fertilizer type, fertility rate, application timing and application method,” he said, adding that selecting the proper fertilizer analysis to develop a prescription for each field is important.