Monday, December 27, 2010

Fertilizer Marketing

I have been in the ag business for 34 years and every year I have to question the logic of fertilizer marketing. I am not talking about the local dealers who supply the end user—farmers. I am talking about the fertilizer manufacturers who make the products that dealers buy.

When I started in 1976, there were at least 12 fertilizer manufacturers in the US. Today there are 11 in North America and five in the U.S. These people control the lives and futures of everyone from the dealers to the growers. Believe me when I say manufacturers do not lose money. They may make more or less from year to year but they will not lose. Whatever expenses they generate will be covered by the price of their products. Dealers do not have it quite as good. The idea of market pressure is very strong when you are a retailer. Growers certainly do have loyalty to specific dealers but their pockets are only so deep. If the price is too high the growers will just cut back or go somewhere else to buy.

I bring this up because 2011 is going to have some very strong pricing for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. As I see it, there are too main reasons for this. First, commodity prices (wheat, corn, soybeans) are up and when they are up, the general idea is that growers can afford more nutrients so the price goes up. Second, is some information I saw from a magazine article stating that the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) estimates that the entire fertilizer industry has spent over 40 billion dollars in upgrades on their nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium plants both internationally and in the U.S. I think it’s a safe bet they want some of that investment back as soon as possible.

It is unfortunate that this pricing strategy has to come down on the backs of the farmers. I have never seen a situation where a farmer can raise the price of his crop to offset rising input costs. It just doesn’t work that way in the real world.

My advice is twofold; first don’t shoot your fertilizer dealer when the 2011 prices come out. Second, make wise choices on what fertilizer you need and how to use it to its maximum ability.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More on Carbon

In his most recent blog post, Rudy mentioned our trip to Phoenix in November where we participated in Huma Gro’s world conference. BioHumaNetics, Inc, put on a great event, and it was fascinating to see Ag professionals from around the world share their stories. There were truly some impressive results around the world in yield and quality gains. I would like to relate my experience at one of the dinner events that has stuck with me. For those of you who do not know me, this is my first year working in the agricultural arena. Most of my years in the work force have been spent around food production in some form and I have been working my way down the food chain towards the roots of it all . . . AG. This first year of formal Ag work has been full of learning opportunities and “Oh! I didn’t know that” moments. 
As I have tasked myself to learn the basics of agronomy, such as memorizing the essential nutrients and some of their individual properties, I found myself at this dinner event being asked a very simple question. This question was, “What is the most important essential nutrient?”. Now depending on the age of the person you are talking to, or the year that the book you are referencing was published, there are 14 to 21 essential nutrients plus more that are necessary, but not quite essential.  So there I was – halfway through my steak and searching my brain to come up with the answer. Rudy has the answer as the title to his post – Carbon, Carbon, Carbon. I’m glad I didn’t blurt out N, P, K or something like Silicon (don’t laugh – in some plants silicon is present in a greater percentage than N or K). 
Carbon is all around us and part of us, and the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that plants need is seldom lacking.  So we basically take these three essential nutrients or “building block elements” for granted.  We used to do the same thing for sulfur. There used to be enough in the environment from industrial sources that availability was rarely an issue. Not any longer – some folks are now calling sulfur the “fourth major nutrient” after N, P, and K. Back to carbon and more importantly its unique bonding properties. Carbon has unique bonding properties among the elements and can form four covalent bonds including being able to bond to other carbon atoms. The incredible diversity we see in biological organic compounds is due to these bonding properties. 
What is important about this in crop production is carbon’s ability to bond to cations AND anions. What is important about our chosen Huma Gro® products and the “Micro Carbon Technology” they employ, is the size of the carbon molecule being used. Huma Gro’s proprietary technology results in very small molecules. The size of this carbon “carrier” makes it easy to get the nutrient ions into the plant. To give some perspective – a humic acid molecule is made up of thousands of carbon rings, a fulvic acid molecule is made up of hundreds of carbon rings, and Huma Gro’s micro carbon molecules are ten times smaller than that - made up of single digit and low double digit carbon rings. The benefits include the non-selective bonding of cations and anions, a low energy requirement to free up the bonded nutrient, and effectiveness in soil OR foliar applications.  At Ag Tech Services, LLC we can get nutrients into the plant when other dealers just wonder what went wrong.

Written by Brian Weems