Don't be shocked if you go in to nail down fertilizer prices and quantities in the next few weeks, only to find prices continue to escalate. Reports from the country indicate that ammonia prices range from $610 to $675 per ton, depending upon where you live in the Corn Belt. Potash prices are above $300 per ton and rising.
Potash is a particularly interesting situation. Steve Spencer, Shelby County Co-op, Shelbyville, believes prices for potash could go higher after Thanksgiving. Apparently demand overseas, plus some internal transportation issues in countries like Russia that supply potash are contributing to the increase. The problems are big enough that there may not be quick solutions.
As on Nov. 14, potash was retailing around $330 per ton in central Indiana. According to sources, don't be surprised if it finds $360 per ton in short order.
Phosphate isn't a bargain either, according to sources. If you're after some nitrogen too, and opt for 18-46-0, expect to pay around $530 per ton, prices in central Indiana current as of Nov. 14.
To gain some historical basis, we checked prices used by Purdue University's Alan Miller and Craig Dobbins to prepare Purdue's 2008 crop budget, already on line, with past crop budgets, dating back to 2002. The Purdue ag economists attempt to use average, retail prices for each nutrient current as of when the budget is prepared.
From 2002 to today, anhydrous ammonia prices have more than doubled. Back in 2002, Purdue budgeted a ton of anhydrous at around $260-$270 per ton. The latest estimate in their '08 budget, at $606 per ton, was almost out-of-date before the ink dried on the budget. To be fair, crop prices for commodities were also out-of-date within three weeks, as prices shot up in the late October through early November period.
Phosphate prices from 2002 to 2008 nearly doubled, and potash prices went up more than double. Once considered a bargain, potash is now selling at prices higher than what nitrogen sold for as anhydrous ammonia in 2002, on a per ton of product basis.
If there's a bargain left in the soil fertility arena, it's likely lime. Purdue budgeted lime at $14 per ton in 2002, and $18 per ton for 2008. That's only about a 30% increase. If your soil tests indicate that a field or even just part of a field needs lime, it may be the best bang for your buck that you can find amongst various crop inputs these days. Correcting soil pH to the proper level for the crop you're growing tends to help plants better utilize other nutrients already in the soil. Current pricing for lime could make a strong case for variable-rate applications of finely-ground, ag limestone yet this fall wherever it is needed.