Take credit for manure application to offset fertilizer costs
by Karen Grimes and Julie Tack, Department of Natural Resources information specialists
As fertilizer prices soar, now is the time to use the nitrogen that is being generated in the hog barn, according to Wayne Gieselman, coordinator of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) animal feeding operation program. Take credit for available nitrogen, test your manure, and land apply following a manure management plan, said Gieselman. You'll save money and help the environment.
High natural gas prices are translating into increased fertilizer costs, according to DNR energy analysts and agricultural experts. Prices are predicted to stay high for several months, which means elevated fertilizer prices will not go away soon. Ammonia fertilizers have doubled in cost in a year when natural gas prices have risen 400 percent. According to Chris Murray, vice president of the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, the average retail price of ammonia fertilizer is now $370 per ton, or 22.6 cents per pound. In fall 1999, it was $190 per ton, or 11.6 cents per pound. Rising natural gas costs mean fertilizer suppliers have to raise prices, and perhaps curtail production, according to the U.S. Fertilizer Institute, which could affect fertilizer management by Iowa farmers.
Gieselman encourages producers to take a serious look at their manure management plans. Producers who are not required to have a plan may want to develop one. Forms and instructions can be found on the DNR Web site under animal feeding operations. The Web site is located at http://www.state.ia.us/government/dnr/organiza/epd/index.htm
Lyle Asell, interim director of the DNR, said farmers can look more seriously at nitrogen management practices when prices are a factor. Farmers can take credit for nitrogen from other sources, said Asell. Livestock manure applications, planting of nitrogen-rich crops such as soybean, and more serious soil testing practices can help alleviate reliance on commerical fertilizers.
These management practices can address other issues, including water quality and regulatory concerns. According to Asell, new water quality initiative programs by the DNR and the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship are designed to educate farmers about effective resource management in crop production. ISU Extension, in coordination with Iowa State University, the DNR, and other partners, provides Web sites for information on nutrient management. Go to http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/immag/ for more information on manure management and to http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/npknowledge/ for more information on specific nutrients.
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Page last updated October 5, 2004
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