Variable-Rate Fertilizer Use May Reduce Agriculture Costs: FIRA
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Variable-Rate Fertilizer Use May Reduce Agriculture Costs: FIRA

Photo by:   Etienne Girardet - Unsplash
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Eliza Galeana By Eliza Galeana | Junior Journalist & Industry Analyst - Wed, 12/07/2022 - 08:45

During the last three years, global factors like the pandemic and the Ukraine war have influenced the cost of agricultural inputs, mainly fertilizers. As a result, the price of grain has increased. Fertilizers are a key part of this figure, so experts said that using variable-rate fertilizer techniques could significantly cut production costs.
 
In Mexico, a large part of the grain production takes place in the northern states. In Sinaloa, fertilizers account for 33 percent of inputs in the final cost of corn production, with an average price of MX$16.4/ha (US$.83/ha). A similar situation happens in Sonora and Baja California regarding wheat production. In Sonora, fertilizers account for 42 percent of inputs in wheat production, with an average cost of MX$15.6/ha (US$.79/ha), and in Baja California, they reach 44 percent, with a cost of MX$16.8/ha (US$.85/ha).
 
Regarding inflation in grain prices, in Sinaloa, the sale price of corn increased 184 percent, from MX$3,704/t (US$187.13/t) in 2020 to MX$6,800/t (US$343.55/t) in 2022. In Sonora, wheat prices grew 160 percent, from MX$4,814/t (US$243.21/t) in 2020 to MX$7,700/t (US$389.02/t) in 2022. In the case of Baja California, costs increased from MX$5,452/t (US$275.57/t) in 2020 to MX$7,600/t (US$384.14/t) in 2022. 
 
According to Jesus Moya, Regional Deputy Director, Established Trust in Relation to Agriculture (FIRA), and Epifaneo Licona, Specialist, FIRA, producers must deal with the issue by incorporating new practices and technologies to make more efficient use of their resources. One of those practices consists of a variable-rate fertilizer application.
 
To apply the variable-rate fertilizer technique, specialists have to generate maps based on satellite images or land surveying conducted by drones. With these maps, experts create practical recommendations for the application of fertilizers in different areas of the plot, depending on the development of the crop.
 
Unlike traditional practices, which consist in applying equal doses of fertilizer across the plot, a variable-rate fertilizer application considers that soil composition differs from site to site. Therefore, for the optimal development of the plants on the same plot different quantities of fertilizer must be applied. This technique permits more efficient use of fertilizers and increases crop yields. In addition, intelligently used fertilizers reduce the risk of soil and water pollution.
 
Through the application of this technology, the demand for fertilizers used in the northwestern region of Mexico could diminish between 20 and 30 percent, which accounts for an estimated saving of MX$3,200/ha (US$161.81/ha) in corn production and around MX$3,100/ha (US$156.76/ha) in wheat production.

Photo by:   Etienne Girardet - Unsplash

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