Officials at West Central, Inc., were hearing the same speculation that others in the industry had been hearing – that in-furrow and 2x2 fertilizer applications were on the rise. To quantify this speculation, they surveyed more than 250 farmers last fall about these practices.
Their findings? In-furrow and 2x2 applications really are gaining ground.
“There certainly is a legitimacy that in-furrow is catching on,” says Josh Nuytten, director of proprietary business at West Central. “What we’re seeing is that everyone responds, regardless of geography, that use is going up. Growers and agronomists alike are seeing the value of spreading out fertilizer products instead of dumping it all at once.”
Around 50% of farmers are currently making in-furrow or 2x2 applications, Nuytten says.
"Research shows that approximately 25% of farmers apply crop nutrients and/or crop protection products at planting in the seed furrow today,” he says. “Approximately another 25% deploy crop nutrients at planting with systems such as 2x2 and deep banding. This same research shows that both in-furrow applications as well as other at planting applications will grow significantly over the next 5 years."
There are several reasons farmers don’t make these applications, explains Dean Hendrickson, director of supplier relations for West Central. The top two barriers to entry are the cost of equipment and the time and hassle of making them, he says. Some farmers also express a safety concern with 2x2 applications – poorly placed fertilizer can damage crop seedlings.
But that hasn’t stopped or even slowed the popularity for these types of applications, Hendrickson says. In fact, survey results showed current non-starter users could more than double the percent of acres they will treat with in-furrow products between 2013 and 2016. And current in-furrow users estimate that 90% of their acres will be treated with an in-furrow product by 2016.
“Once they get there, they don’t back away,” he says. “They continue to adapt and grow.”
Lower commodity prices should highlight, rather than downplay, the potential of in-furrow applications, Hendrickson adds.
“It is a different environment,” he says. “Yields are a necessity right now, not a luxury.”