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Farm fertilizer may be in short supply in region

Paul Wagner gets ready to incorporate fertilizer on land his family farms near Fisher, Minn., on Monday, May 6. Planting has been limited in the Red River Valley due to cooler and wetter conditions. Photo by Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

Potential for a short-time tight supply of fertilizer may cause another headache this spring for farmers in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

Though cool and wet weather has made for sporadic farm work this spring, there already have been some places in North Dakota where fertilizer supplies are inadequate, said David Franzen, NDSU soil fertility specialist.

“Even last week in a few areas there were temporary shortages for lack of truckers, for one thing, and distance for another thing,” Franzen said.

The fertilizer supply could tighten more once fieldwork begins in earnest.

“There’s some concern that if we go hard and fast, we won’t get the product,” said Jason Parenteau, Mayport ( N.D.) Farmers Co-Op manager.

Some businesses in the region that sell fertilizer don’t carry a large inventory of fertilizer because they are unsure how much farmers will buy, Franzen said. Farmers in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota often switch their crop rotations, unlike growers in states such as Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, where corn and soybeans are grown year in and year out, Franzen said.

“Here it could be 2 million acres that could move from wheat and corn to beans in a matter of a couple of weeks,” he said.

Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied after the crop is in the ground, so farmers shouldn’t wait for it, Franzen suggested.

“For fields that have not yet been fertilized, I recommend planting prior to applying nitrogen fertilizer rather than waiting days for a fertilizer application,” he said. “There is sufficient nitrogen in the soil to support developing seedlings for several weeks without any yield reduction.”

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