Written by: Kelsey Banks, Agronomist, on behalf of Ottawa Rideau Regional SCIA

As most of us have heard from our local crop inputs retail or somewhere along the agriculture rumour mill, this year some crop input prices are rising, and some product availability may be an issue. One of the reasons for the increase in crop input pricing according to Jackson Takach, Chief Economist for Farmer Mac is, “During periods of rising corn and soybean prices, costs of fertilizer, pesticides, and other inputs rise in tandem.” The other reasons could include delays in manufacturing crop input products due to COVID-19, issues with product shipping logistics, and more. The reality is that crop inputs prices have increased and that growers still need to grow a crop for their business and to feed the world. But how can this be done?

1. Talk to your agronomist, now! If you have had your soil sampled within the last couple of years you can see the amount of nutrients that are available for the crop in the soil. For most growers, the sufficiency method of formulating a fertilizer blend is typically used. A fact sheet from Oklahoma State University explains that “The goal of the sufficiency approach is to apply enough fertilizer to maximize profitability in that given year of application, while minimizing nutrient applications and fertilizer costs at the same time. Of the management strategies, the sufficiency concept will, in general, apply the least amount of total nutrients. Many remember how the sufficiency concept works by saying that it “fertilizes the crop.” This may mean you still have additional available nutrients in the soil that you can ask your agronomist about a specific fertility program for you.

Also, if you have been using soil health practices like cover crops, reducing tillage passes or other soil health practices, you may have a higher organic matter, meaning there are more nutrients available from the decomposition of the cover crop and previous crop.

2. Talk to your local crop inputs dealer, now! Right now, most seed companies are coming out with their early order and early pay discount programs. If you have fertilizer storage and have the equipment to apply your fertilizer without a customer worker, there may be a better price on commercial fertilizer products. Some types of pesticides cannot freeze, or they lose their efficacy when used for the next crop. If you have the correct storage space available for specific products your agronomist has recommended, it may be an opportunity for you to pre-book your product to ensure it is available for you. After speaking with your agronomist and creating a plan, speak with your local crop inputs dealer about these programs that are available and see where you may be able to save some costs.

3. Prepare for possible changes in your crop plan As you communicate between your agronomist and crop inputs dealer, there may be some product changes based on availability. For example, if your agronomist suggests desiccating your soybeans in the fall pre-harvest with glyphosate, but the crop inputs dealer has no glyphosate available, it may be suggested that you use other similar desiccant product(s).

Photo credit: Kelsey Banks, September 15, 2021. One of the ONFARM fields of Soybeans near Douglas, Ontario dropping leaves pre-harvest.

It may be difficult, but this could be an opportunity to better your farm management. By changing your typical product applications of herbicides and fungicides, you are most likely going to be changing the active that is being used. Consequently, this can help reduce the build up to certain weed herbicide resistances, as we are seeing more weeds becoming resistant to different herbicide actives. By changing your soil management strategy by reducing tillage passes and seeding a cover crop in the fall, you may be reducing a buildup of a weed seed bank that could be adding to the weeds you need to spray for. Also, you may have some residual nutrients available following the cover crop.

Your agronomist and crop inputs dealers are partners of your farm business. Their main goal is to help you and your farm business. Increasing crop input prices is stressful and trying to find the available product you need can add to that stress. So, let’s all remember to be kind to each other and make the 2022 crop year an opportunity to work together and grow a great crop.

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