Fertiliser Costs | 6 Ways to Reduce Them

A picture of a truck spraying fertiliser. With proper techniques famerers can be able to reduce their fertiliser costs.Farmers face several challenges that affect their yields and income. In Kenya, the most common challenge is increasing fertiliser costs which affect profitability. Other challenges faced by local farmers include climate change, poor quality seeds, and the increasing costs of farm inputs.

Farm produce is also affected by pests and diseases, and the lack of infrastructure such as cold storage facilities increases post-harvest losses. However, for this article, we will only concentrate on fertiliser costs.

Why Are Fertiliser Costs Increasing?

According to the World Bank, several factors are causing an increase in fertiliser prices worldwide. The price increase was first experienced in the third quarter of 2021 due to increasing energy costs and trade policies. An example of a trade policy that has increased fertiliser costs is China’s suspension of fertiliser exports.

The suspension of fertiliser exports was to ensure there was enough fertiliser for domestic use and to protect the country from food shortages. It is important to note that China accounts for more than 1\3 of all DAP and UREA fertiliser exports. Another major exporter of fertiliser that has banned exports is Russia.

Increasing Cost of Production

Another factor that has increased fertilizer costs worldwide is the increasing cost of natural gas and coal in China. In Europe, when the price of natural gas increases, major fertiliser producers produce less ammonia, resulting in shortages of nitrogen-based fertilisers. 

In China, Increase in coal prices has resulted in power rationing, causing fertiliser factories to cut down on production. The energy problem was also witnessed in Europe and Gulf Coast countries that had to reduce the fertiliser they produced. 

Fertiliser Outlook of 2022 -2023

The cost of fertiliser is projected to increase due to the trade policies undertaken by China and the Russian government. However, the price can fall if China changes its trade policy and allows for fertiliser exports.

 So how can a farmer reduce the cost of fertilisers?

6 Ways Farmers Can Reduce Fertiliser Costs

Have a Soil Test Done

There are several reasons why you should have a soil test done. The first reason is that you can identify pests and diseases that could affect your farm. The second reason is that you will be advised on the nutrients required to increase yield. This is better than applying fertiliser without knowing whether or not the farm needs the nutrients in the first place.

Different plants require different nutrients for them to thrive. When you have a soil test done, you will save a lot of money on input costs because you will only add the depleted nutrients. 

Using Variable Rate Fertiliser Technology

This technology enables the farmer to only apply fertiliser in areas of the farm with depleted nutrients. A soil test will have to be done to determine the specific area. Most farmers will add nutrients to their farm without knowing whether or not it is necessary.

Variable-rate technology works by adding fertiliser in underutilised areas and avoiding adding it in areas where the yield will not improve. In simple terms, if there’s no agronomic advantage to adding nutrients to the soil, then there’s no need of buying the manure in the first place.

Short Term Reduction in Phosphorus and Potassium Does not Affect Yield Levels. 

Contrary to popular belief, soil test values will not drop if you add  ⅔ of the expected decline levels of phosphorus and potassium. This is because the rate of depletion is slow for phosphorus and potassium compared to nitrogen. The yield will remain constant because the soil test values will not drop.

Use a Nitrogen Stabiliser

A nitrogen stabiliser is any substance applied to the soil to delay the nitrification process. In simple terms, a nitrogen stabiliser enables the nitrogen to remain in ammonium form longer. when nitrification takes place, ammonia becomes a nitrate which can be lost through a process known as denitrification. 

Don’t Apply all of It at Once

Instead of applying nutrients at once, you can use them in smaller quantities over time. The timing should, however, be in response to weather patterns. To make your work easier, we recommend using nitrogen modelling software. The software uses weather events such as rainfall to calculate how much nitrogen will be required to increase or sustain yields. 

Another simple way of reducing the fertiliser costs is by buying it during the low season, instead of buying it when there is high demand for the product. Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultative session.

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