Usually our first analysis of fertilizer costs is a simple price per ton comparison: Example A is $400.00/ton and Example B is $600.00/ton. Example A is less expensive and is the better buy. Right?
Then we realize that the fertilizer analysis greatly affects the true cost of a fertilizer. The formulation for Example A is 8-8-8 at a cost of $16.67/unit of active ingredient. 8+8+8 = 24 ($400/24=16.67)
The formulation for Example B is 13-13-13 at a cost of $15.38/unit of active ingredient. 13+13+13 = 39 ($600/39 = $15.38).
Lo and behold the product that costs 50% more per ton is the better buy!
We soon understand that the form in which the fertilizer is delivered has a tremendous influence on the value we get.
Example C is a 21-0-0 that feeds for 21 days for $300/ton. One unit of N costs $.95. 2000 lbs. x 21% = 420 lbs. N. $300/420 lbs. = $.83/unit of N. 420 lbs. N/21 day release = 20 lbs./day N release. 20 lbs./day released @ $.83 = $16.63/day of N release.
Example D is a 40-0-0 that feeds for 112 days for $900/ton. One unit of N costs $1.25. 2,000 lbs. x 40% = 800 lbs. N. $900/800 lbs. = $1.13/unit of N. 800 lbs. N/112 day release = 7.14 lbs./day N release. 7.14 lbs./day release @ $1.13 = $8.07/day N release.
So, even though Example D costs more per ton and more per unit, it is more cost effective due to the form it is in and the release characteristics of that form.
Yet as informative as that is, today’s conditions warrant an even closer and more honest scrutiny of the effectiveness of a fertilizer. Business is still in a recovery stage. Budgets are tight. Environmental considerations are becoming more important and compelling. And every expenditure must be closely examined. That brings us to the next stage of analyzing fertilizer effectiveness, and that is…how much of what is applied is actually used by the plant? The University of Florida is doing extensive research on this with many forms of fertilizer. They have coined a term for the comparison figure. It is PAN, which stands for Plant Available Nutrition.
What are some of the factors affecting how much of a fertilizer is actually taken up by the plant?
Leaching. Soluble nutrition that is moved through the effective root zone without being utilized by the plant. This can reach up to 20% of the applied fertilizer, although 8-12% is considered normal.
Runoff. Soluble nutrition that is washed from the surface into surrounding areas without the target plants using it. This is a huge but unmeasured loss. Groundwater pollution, surface water pollution, wetland endangerment, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, fish kills from oxygen starvation…these are some of the evidence of fertilizer runoff. It is resulting in many areas enacting regulations and ordinances that limit the type and timing of fertilizer applications.
Volatilization. Nutrient chemicals being rendered gaseous by environmental factors. If you apply nitrogen and smell ammonia, then nitrogen is being volatilized. For example, recent research at Auburn University measured uncoated urea volatilization when surface applied to be routinely 25% of N! That’s a quarter of your money literally going up in smoke!
Solarization. Sunlight can cause some chemicals to change form and become less available to plants. This is particularly true with soluble liquid applications for foliar feeding. Largely unmeasured, evidence of the degree of severity of this phenomena is leaf burn, salt buildup and need to increase fertilizer amounts applied over time.
PAN should be considered for any fertilizer used and the relative cost of the product will be greatly affected by the consideration of the actual amount of fertilizer nutrition that the target plants utilize.
This is where Nature Safe shines.
1. Processed protein based organic fertilizer.
2. Does not burn.
3. Does not leach.
4. No runoff.
5. Biologically released. The nutrition in Nature Safe is delivered in an unavailable form. This characteristic is what keeps it from leaching, volatilizing, solarizing or running off. It must be consumed by soil microorganisms to then become available to plants. Biological processes of both plants and animals are affected by heat and moisture. If it is warm and humid, plants grow faster and soil microbes (animals) are more active. Plant nutrition demand is higher and Nature Safe availability is higher. In cold weather, plant growth slows, but so does microbe activity. So, Nature Safe nutrition stays where it is until needed.
So, to return to the math we did earlier, let’s see how PAN can make Nature Safe a better buy.
Example E is a 10-2-8 that feeds for 84 days @ $1,280/ton. One unit of active ingredient costs $3.20. 2,000 lbs. x 20% active ingredient = 400 lbs. $1,280/400 lbs. = $3.20/lb. active ingredient. 400 lbs. active ingredient/84 day release = 4.76 lbs. release/day. 4.76 lbs./day release @ $3.20/day = $15.23/day active ingredient release.
Example C = $16.63/day Example D = $8.07/day Example E = $15.23/day
Nature Safe looks better than you thought against a soluble product, doesn’t it?
Now, allow a little conjecture and consider pricing using PAN.
Example C = $16.63/day. It is not out of the question that a soluble N form of fertilizer could lose 35% of it’s contained analysis through leaching, vaporization, runoff and solarization, especially if ill timed regarding temperature and rain events. That cost would then rise to a whopping $23.28 per day!
Example D = $8.07/day. Even in this more complex form, losses of 25% are far more common that one would think, especially in temperatures that are very cool or very warm. Given a 25% unused nutrition, this cost rises to $10.08/day.
Example E = (Nature Safe) $15.23/day. With no loss due to environmental factors, it stays at $15.23/day.
How much of what is applied is actually used by the plant?
The perceived tremendous gap between Nature Safe and conventional fertilizers narrows considerably. It is actually a lower cost to use than some of the “cheap” forms of fertilizer, and much more competitive to the more complex forms. This is quite an accomplishment for an organic. And if that were the end of the story, you can still feel good about using Nature Safe. What else do you get for your money?
Unlike conventional chemical fertilizers, Nature Safe delivers far more than just nutritional elements!
Nature Safe comes in many formulations. Some are all organic and some are fortified with the many of the best nitrogen chemistries available. Cost analysis on these N fortified products would show an even closer comparison than the 10-2-8 all organic used in the exercise.
Some distributors have blending capabilities and use our 13-0-0 blending base to formulate custom fertilizers. By adding 200-500 lbs. of Nature Safe per ton in your conventional blend you gain the benefits of Nature Safe while also managing costs and tailoring your analysis to your particular needs.