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Grain Prices May Affect Farmers' 1996 input Decisions

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Written Friday, May 03, 1996  

High grain prices could influence farmers to apply more inputs than usual to their crops this spring, but farmers also should consider the environment and economics in their decisions, say Ohio State specialists.

"This year, because of the high grain prices, some growers will take more preventative actions instead of letting things go and only treating if a need arises," says agronomist Peter Thomison.

For example, grain prices around $5 per bushel might change the minds of growers who typically don't use a starter fertilizer of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, Thomison says. These growers might feel less inhibited by the costs of production than in the past, because even a slight yield increase will pay for the increased inputs, he says.

However, soil fertility specialist Jay Johnson warns farmers against going all-out in their applications. He says farmers should apply only enough to help the crop, because excessive amounts can hurt yields, and possibly hurt the environment.

For example, too much phosphorous in corn can suppress zinc uptake and slow plant growth and development, Johnson says. Excessive potassium suppresses magnesium uptake, reducing feed quality of forages and stock quality in grain production, he says.

Growers thinking of changing input levels should consider soil test results that reveal what nutrients are necessary and the field's yield-potential history. OSU's Research/Extension Analytical Laboratory at Wooster does soil tests for farmers in Indiana and Ohio. Farmers in both states can get sampling kits at Extension offices.

High grain prices also may prompt farmers to experiment with nontraditional crop amendments, such as algae or seaweed, to raise yields. University testing of more than 600 of these products have shown that very few benefit crop production, Johnson says. "The economics is whether or not you want to buy something with a low probability of return, and that's an individual decision," he says.

Factors such as rains and temperatures will have more impact on yield than most inputs farmers use, Johnson says.

Corn prices shouldn't have much of an impact on herbicide use, although growers might be willing to pay a few more dollars for a more consistent product, says weed specialist Mark Loux. "When someone finds a herbicide program that works for them, they're going to stay with it," Loux says.

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