Wheat farmers can count on high fertilizer prices becoming a consistent factor in annual production budgets, says a Texas AgriLife Extension fertility specialist. So farmers need to fine-tune operations to make certain their fertility programs are as efficient as possible.

Options should include annual soil tests, deep sampling, proper placement, proper timing and proper rate to mesh with intended crop use.

Farmers also may want to look at organic fertilizer sources, such as chicken litter, but should be careful about non-traditional products that may not come with unbiased testing.

“We’ve seen significant changes in the price of fertilizer in the past ten years,” said Mark McFarland, Extension soil fertility specialist, during a Big Country Wheat Conference in Abilene. “We’ve seen costs go to levels we have not seen before, and, even though they have moderated a bit in the past two or two-and-a-half months, prices are still 200 percent to 300 percent higher than historical levels.

“I don’t see prices going down,” McFarland said. “The global market demand will keep them high. So, high nutrient costs will remain a substantial part of wheat production economics.”

Wheat producers will need to factor those high prices into production budgets and find ways to make that investment as profitable as possible. “The keys to fertility efficiency are type of nutrient, rate of application, method of application and timing of application,” he said.

Type and rate should be determined by soil tests. “With current fertilizer prices, we are promoting annual soil sampling. Wheat producers must verify what nutrients are needed and also credit the amount already available in the soil, including residual from previous crops.”