Foliar Fertilizers: Are They a Sound Investment? – Part II

Foliar Fertilizers: Are They a Sound Investment? – Part II

Last week we looked at the performance of a number of different foliar products tested in 2015. Click here if you missed Part I of this series. This week, in Part II of the series, we will be looking at the potential return on investment with these products.

Although some products did give a yield bump compared to the controls, it’s important to consider return on investment when deciding to add inputs into your management plan. To calculate return on invest, some assumptions are needed – 1) we are assuming the application cost per trip through the field is $8.00 and 2) we are assuming a price of $9.00 per bushel. The total cost of each treatment (product + application cost) was subtracted from the value of each treatment (yield * price) to determine the net value.  Obviously, fuel costs and the cost of beans will affect the return on investment, but data below reflect the assumptions above. Averaging over trials from both locations, a positive return on investment only occurred for the top performing treatments for each trial, Nutrisol Micro 581 in trial 1 and Quantum 25-0-0 in trail 2. All other treatments in both trials resulted in a loss.

Trail 1 ROI

Trial 2 ROI

To summarize, while some products gave a yield bump at some locations, no product tested consistently showed statistically significant improvements on the controls. In addition, even the products/treatments that did show a yield bump did not result in a positive return on investment with two exceptions. Nutrisol Micro 581 gave an $11 return in trial 1, but this product was not tested in trail 2, and Quantum 25-0-0 coupled with an insecticide and fungicide gave a $6 return in trail 2, but in trail 1, this product actually resulted in a loss. So even the best products seem to give inconsistent results.

If you consider data from hundreds of in-season nutrient product trials here in North Carolina and across the United States, these results are not surprising. The majority of these trials have found that in-season fertilizer applications will seldom be cost-effective in most soybean production systems. These products are likely not worth the investment in fields that have been well fertilized or fields where there are issues other than nutrients limiting yield. There may be exceptions on a field by field basis, like when nutrient deficiency symptoms are obvious, however.

To wrap up, remember, this is just one year of data and it’s difficult to determine the value of any product based on only one year of data. In addition, soil type, fertility levels, and potential yield all play a role in how a crop will respond to these foliar products. If you are interested in the value of some of these products for your operation, I would encourage you to choose a few to try in strip trials on your farm this year. Tips for conducting strip trials are below.

On Farm Strip Trials


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