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Reevaluating Nitrogen As Input Prices Rise

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The 2021 and 2022 growing seasons have provided marketing opportunities for corn growers with prices in the mid-$5 range and upward. While margins on the 2021 corn crop have been good for most, higher crop input  prices will begin to shrink that margin moving forward. Some of the largest percentage gains in input prices have been for fertilizer, nitrogen specifically.

In the area of our farm, anhydrous  ammonia prices are currently about 50% higher than the previous season. These higher prices, combined with the desire to produce more bushels with more sustainable farming methods, led me to conduct field trials for the past two years  using Pivot Bio PROVEN®.

Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40 microbes adhere to the root of the corn, turning atmospheric nitrogen into the nutrients the plant needs.  Last year, our corn with Pivot Bio PROVEN® showed a yield increase  of about five bushels per acre. However, Pivot Bio’s work is really about a much bigger picture than  corn yields.

Ernie Sanders is the vice president of Product Development at Pivot Bio. I’ve visited with Ernie several times, both on our farm and at field days throughout the nation. Sanders says, “We firmly believe it’s a mission from our company to reduce applied nitrogen and to  replace it with biological nitrogen.

It’s good for a farmer. It returns good ROI, and it’s good for the planet.”

These field trials are causing us to reevaluate the way we use nitrogen.

With this in mind, we reduced the amount of synthetic nitrogen  on our corn with Pivot Bio PROVEN®. We believe that Pivot Bio PROVEN® can “replace” some of the synthetic nitrogen we currently apply, giving us the same or better. We will soon have  that harvest data.

“A lot of times you apply a lot of nitrogen at one time, and it either  washes away or degrades, and you hope you have enough there when you need it. Ours is there every day,” says Sanders.

When Sanders says Pivot Bio PROVEN® is “there every day,” he’s referring to the fact that the biological adheres to the roots of  the corn plant. That means it can’t be washed away, and it provides a constant supply of nitrogen throughout the season. Pivot Bio PROVEN® replaces about 25 pounds of applied nitrogen per acre, but Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40, the company’s new offering, can replace about 40 pounds of nitrogen.

Our field trials show an opportunity for a better ROI, a reduced  need for synthetic nitrogen and the mitigation of nitrogen loss. These are key factors for us to consider, especially in a time when farmers are looking to implement more sustainable farming practices.

“Sustainable farming is going to be more than a buzzword,” says Sanders. “It’s going to be something where people think about what’s the most efficient use of all of my resources.”

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