MELVIN, Ill. — Dave Murphy got about half the anhydrous spread this fall that he hoped for. The central Illinois farmer, who farms with his father and uncle, said he is more fortunate than most in getting even that applied this year.
Farmers, agribusinesses operators and applicators are expecting that wet fall weather will have an impact next spring because many farmers who regularly fall-apply anhydrous will be doing something different for 2019’s corn crop.
“Anhydrous application slowed down rapidly going into November. In the northern half of Illinois, some got a little on, and some didn’t get any,” said Murphy, who farms in in Peoria, Marshall and Bureau counties. “We got about half what we were expecting to. The balance will be in another form next year,”
Often, people are reluctant to apply anhydrous in the spring because of the two-week waiting period before planting. By the time the fields are good enough to get anhydrous on, farmers often don’t want to wait longer for planting.
“This year we had snow April 7,” Murphy said.
He is expecting to do some on-planter liquid nitrogen this spring for the first time.
“Very little, maybe 5 percent” of the anhydrous planned for eastern Illinois was applied this year, said Shelby Weckel, an agronomist for Ehler Brothers Seed in Thomasboro, Illinois.
“It turned wet and cold. First it was too wet, then it was frozen,” she said of fields in the Champaign County area.
On a recent road trip, she noticed anhydrous tanks sitting in various locations. People will have to figure out how to get their “dirt work” done, as well has how to apply nitrogen in the new year, she said.
“A lot of guys are disappointed,” she said, and it is likely “the price will go up” because of this year’s situation.
Suppliers and applicators are also disappointed about the lack of fall anhydrous applied. Tyler Smith, crop specialist at Heritage FS in Melvin, Illinois, said his company applied less than 25 percent of its planned anhydrous in the Gibson City area. Only about 500 acres were served from the Melvin location this year.
He was also disappointed that they didn’t get to use a new product, Centuro, manufactured by Koch Agronomic Services. The new anhydrous ammonia stabilizer was approved this year after seven years of testing. It became available to farmers for the first time this fall.
While the company had the product ready to get out to farmers in Melvin, the wet weather prevented them from trying it this year.
Smith said he likes that it isn’t corrosive, can be used at lower temperatures and has no odor. He said the new product does require a slightly higher application rate.
More farmers are using nitrogen stabilizers today than in the past, both for environmental and profit reasons, Smith said. N-Serve by Corteva has been the product of choice for 30 years.
He said he expects any stabilizers use with spring-applied anhydrous depends on whether farmers get warmer, drier weather in February or March and apply anhydrous early.
Centuro is the first nitrogen stabilizer to be certified by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) FIFRA in 40 years, said Ryan Potter, Centuro’s product manager. Because of stringent regulations for the product, classified as a pesticide, the process took seven years, he said. The benefit to the long timeline was they could keep testing rates and gathering information.
The new product can also be used with UAN, said Greg Schwab, Koch’s director of agronomy. He said tests are being done to determine the correct rate for different areas.
“Obviously farmers like to see data from their own state,” he said.
Dan Schaefer, director of nutrient stewardship for the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association has worked on multiple research projects over the years involving nitrogen stabilizers, including Corteva’s N-Serve and Centuro, as part of his 4R work funded by the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council through a fertilizer checkoff. They are the only two nitrogen stabilizers certified for anhydrous.
Schaefer is also part of research helping farmers determine the best amount of nitrogen to use on their farm in a given year. He works with Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois professor emeritus, on the Maximum Return to Nitrogen (MRTN) calculator in Illinois.
“I can tell you how much you needed last year,” he joked.
But, it’s a little harder to predict for the coming year as rainfall and weather will be different. Still, the recommendations for optimal nitrogen are guidelines to help farmers determine return on investment.