The price of fertilizer may have decreased some and stabilized from recent historic peaks, but it’s still expensive. So it makes sense for farmers to be as prudent as possible with this essential resource.

“Pay attention to the price of fertilizer,” says Mark McFarland, Texas A&M professor and AgriLife Extension soil fertility specialist.

McFarland kicked off the grain commodity session of the annual Blacklands Income Growth Conference recently in Waco, Texas, with a recommendation that farmers should determine the amount of nutrients available in their soils before they add more and should consider the value of various application techniques, the reliability of new and standard products, and the effect that pH may have on nutrient availability.

“The price of fertilizer is still up,” McFarland said. “It has stabilized somewhat, but compared to prices from the not-too-distant past, it’s still extremely high.”

Consequently, farmers can’t waste money on products they don’t need, application techniques that don’t make economic sense or by not applying what’s needed on a timely basis.

He said a fertilizer delivery system, the Exactrix, has been touted as providing a method with no nitrogen loss. Other claims included increased stability in the soil, keeping nitrogen in ammonium form, uniform delivery and potential to reduce nitrogen use by 30 percent to 40 percent.

Research performed in the Texas High Plains did not support those claims, he said. Tests comparing application with the Exactrix system to traditional nitrogen application showed “no response to method of application in either of the two years in trials.

“With new products, it’s often hard to find reliable, non-biased information. The Exactrix equipment is good, solid machinery but is expensive. Anhydrous would have to be very cheap to pay back the investment.”