EnviroMonitor Can Help Farmers Contend with Rising Fertilizer Costs
Farmers are thinking a lot about fertilizer. As in, “How am I going to afford to it?” With costs at least 35% higher, and often double, than last year, fertilizer costs are just the latest in the list of worries farmers are facing.
The past few years have not been easy for any industry, or any community. But along with health workers, farmers have not only literally kept us going, but also shouldered extra burdens and sacrifices to do so.
As they headed into 2022 feeling optimistic that perhaps the worst was behind them, they were met with soaring costs of fertilizer and extended delivery times. While no grower ever wants to waste fertilizer, this year the financial pressure to not overuse this pricey resource is causing some farm headaches. Those farmers who already have installed an EnviroMonitor® can pat themselves on the back: they have a valuable tool for helping to make sure that their irrigation and application practices are perfectly tweaked to take advantage of fertilizers without waste.
The reasons for the painful rise in fertilizer costs are complicated, (here is a good article from the Farm Bureau that tackles the many “whys”) but the overarching cause is supply chain. While the US is the third largest maker of industrial fertilizer, the components -- nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium -- are heavily imported and the prices of not just one, but of all three have risen. Another vital cost has also risen: the energy (coal and natural gas) needed to convert those components into fertilizer. Then there is the problem of getting the imported goods off the ships and into the hands of US manufacturers. To the supply chain and distribution blocks, we can add unfavorable trade issues and tariffs. Then there is the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has further pushed up the price of natural gas and reduced supply as a result of sanctions against Russia, which is a major exporter of nitrogen and potassium fertilizer.
Farmers have few options in coping with this up-front cost. Crops need fertilizer. All they can do is become aggressively accurate in applying the right fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. They can effectively “spoon feed” their crops, adding another layer of labor cost to their already overburdened bottom line. Otherwise, some may consider changing crops from corn or wheat, to one that requires less fertilizer such as soybeans. They may consider waiting to fertilize until the spring instead of fall and spring.
One option all growers have is to consider using an EnviroMonitor system with soil moisture sensors (like this one for example, but the list of supported soil moisture sensors is extensive) to make sure that liquid fertilizer is so precisely applied that every bit of the plant boosting stuff is carried to their plants’ root zone, not to the groundwater or stream. Using the pest management features of the Mobilize app can help keep plants healthy so that roots and leaves can effectively use fertilizers and water.
The EnviroMonitor system will also help them meet other rising-cost challenges. American farmers are paying more for weed killers, crop seeds, and labor. EnviroMonitor will help them avoid spraying and planting when the winds are too strong. They can protect their labor force and keep them on the job by carefully monitoring heat and UV conditions in the field.
We are not back to normal yet, not by a long shot. But our appreciation for the growers who seem to be doing double-suffering duty to keep food on our tables will never go back to “normal.” You are our heroes!
To get a more advanced perspective on using EnviroMonitor and Mobilize for irrigation, set up a FREE consultation with one of our Agriculture Specialist or download our FREE buying guide for agricultural weather solutions.
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