Experts provide ideas to help manage skyrocketing fertilizer prices

Samantha Hendrickson
Wisconsin State Farmer
Farmers can expect fertilizer to take up a larger part of their crop budgets in 2022.

Fertilizer prices are at an all time high, and they're only getting higher.

Due to issues in supply chains, lack of global resources in ingredients like phosphorous, challenges in nitrogen production, rising natural gas costs and a steady demand despite shortages, fertilizer prices are rising monthly. 

But this doesn't just affect crop farmers — livestock and dairy farmers are most likely to see prices in feed rising, as soybeans, corn and wheat farmers must adjust to afford fertilizer. 

According to a report by the CoBank Knowledge Exchange, elevated fertilizer prices are expected to remain high for at least the next six months — well into the 2022 spring planting season. 

"That's what's so hard about farming," Bob Roden, a dairy and crop farmer in West Bend, said. "The variables we got, we don't know in the spring what we're going to get." 

Price breakdown 

The Green Markets North American Fertilizer Index has risen by 265% since May 2020, and experts say that won't go down anytime soon. 

Kevin Jarek, crops and soil agent for University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, said that farmers can expect fertilizer to take up a larger part of their crop budgets in 2022. 

Kevin Jarek

Corn planters can expect to spend 30%-40% of their budget in 2022 on fertilizer with current prices, compared to 26% in 2020. 

Soybean planters can expect to spent 20%-30% of their budget in 2022 on fertilizer, as opposed to 10% in 2020. 

MORE: Fertilizer prices continue their upward trend

Wheat planters should expect to spend 40%-45% of their crop budget in 2020 on fertilizer, compared to 20% in 2020. 

"Unfortunately, it's the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to inflation," Jarek said. "Whatever numbers we're gonna throw at it, it's not done yet." 

Ideas for managing skyrocketing prices

While farmers can't change these prices, they can change a few things to help offset costs. 

First, Jarek suggests, is to run a crop enterprise budget. It's important that it's from scratch, since prices on many farm necessities are different than previous years. 

Second, is to prioritize your fields.

"If we look at a field and this field has has adequate or high fertility, you're going to likely consider that a candidate to have reduced fertilizer applications," Jarek said. 

Depending on soil test results, and how healthy the soil is, farmers could provide less fertilizer to healthier fields and focus more fertilizer on fields with less nutrients in the soil. 

Jarek also suggested that farmers look into taking out operational loans, depending on their financial situation. 

"We've been through years like this before," Roden said. "We always figure it out."

Samantha Hendrickson can be reached at 414-223-5383 or shendrickson@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @samanthajhendr.