Gestión técnica  

Nitrogen Fertilizer


Cooperative Extension
Colorado State University


High N Prices Hit Again
Soil Testing and Fertilizer Recommendations for Nitrogen Use
It Pays to Manage Nitrogen Using Precision Agriculture Techniques
Nitrogen Credits Reduce Fertilizer N Need
When Fertilizer is Expensive, Think Manure!
In-Season Tools Manage N Closer To Margin
Nitrogen Application
Managing Irrigation Water
Considerations for On-Farm Fertilizer and Pesticide Storage
Security Requirements Affect Fertilizer Transport
Tips on Preventing Anhydrous Ammonia Theft


High N Prices Hit Again

The cost of nitrogen (N) fertilizer, an essential input in our crop production system, has increased to levels we have not seen since 2001 (Table 1). Similar to 2001, the primary driver for this price increase was high natural gas prices and increased demand for natural gas throughout the winter. All synthetic nitrogen fertilizer products begin as ammonia. Ammonia is the product of nitrogen gas (N2) from the atmosphere and hydrogen (H2) from either fossil fuels or water (3H2 + N2 2 NH3). Natural gas is the primary source of hydrogen in this process and therefore N prices are sensitive to natural gas supplies. The natural gas price this winter (Figure 1) was not quite as high as it was in 2001, but changes in the fertilizer industry and increased demand from household and electric utility providers for this clean burning fuel have bumped N prices to similar levels. Furthermore, a colder than average winter and limited alternative energy supplies have added to the pressure on natural gas. After the N fertilizer price spike in 2001, N prices declined during the 2002 and 2003 growing seasons, although not to the low price levels producers enjoyed prior to 2001. This year’s prices may not be as much “sticker shock” as in 2001, but they still hit growers during a time of economic stress with additional drought pressure and relatively flat commodity prices. What can growers do to deal with a large increase in an input so essential to crop productivity? There are several interrelated practices that growers should consider in order to more efficiently manage N to achieve the best return for their fertilizer dollar. In this issue we review many of these practices and provide information on new N management strategies. Besides prices, growers using N fertilizer also need to be aware of several issues regarding the security and stewardship of their N fertilizer during transportation and storage. Three articles in this newsletter offer suggestions for keeping your N fertilizer supply from being stolen or lost to undesirable locations in our environment. Nitrogen fertilizer is more valuable than ever. The following articles discuss strategies on how to best utilize N purchased at a premium.


Table 1. Nitrogen fertilizer, fertilizer grade, and price (US$) in 2004


---------$/pound N ---------
Anhydrous ammonia
Urea Ammonium Nitrate
Ammonium nitrate

Figure 1. Average price (winter commercial) for natural gas.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy at:

FROM THE GROUND UP agronomy news is a monthly publication of Cooperative Extension, Department of Soil & Crop Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.

The information in this newsletter is not copyrighted and may be distributed freely. Please give the original author the appropriate credit for their work.

Troy Bauder, Raj Khosla, and Reagan Waskom
Technical Editors

Direct questions and comments to:
Deborah Fields
Phone: 970- 491-6201
Fax: 970-491-2758
Extension staff members are:

Troy Bauder
, Water Quality
Mark Brick, Bean Production
Joe Brummer, Forages
Betsy Buffington, Pesticide
Pat Byrne, Biotechnology
Jessica Davis, Soils

Jerry Johnson, Variety Testing
Raj Khosla, Precision Farming
Sandra McDonald, Pesticide
Calvin Pearson, New Crops
James Self, Soil, Water & Plant Testing
Reagan Waskom, Water Resources

Colorado State University Home Page Link Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. Cooperative Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Colorado State University Cooperative Extension is implied.
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