COLUMBUS, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic, inflation and Russia's war against Ukraine are all driving up the price of fertilizer, and that increase is forcing farmers to look for alternatives. Manure may be the solution.

What You Need To Know

  • According to the United States Department of Agriculture, fertilizer accounts for at least 30% of a farmer's operating expenses

  • The increase can be contributed to rising fuel costs, Russia's war against Ukraine, the ongoing pandemic and inflation

  • Farmers are turning to manure as a substitute

  • Each week, Chuck Ringwalt and Andy Vance discuss a topic of importance within agriculture

"When you think about how farmers go about producing food and the different fertilizers, the different inputs, rather, that go into producing a crop, fertilizer is one of the most important because it's the fuel, if you will, for what gets a crop like, say, corn to grow. You've got, seed, land fuel for the tractors, but then another of the most prevalent expenses is fertilizer, particularly nitrogen-based fertilizer," agriculture expert Andy Vance said.

The USDA estimates an annual price increase of 235% for anhydrous ammonia, 149% for urea and 192% for liquid nitrogen – all primary forms of nitrogen fertilizer.

"And so as I talk with farmers, as I follow them on social media, that's one of the huge cost increases that they've seen. And we're talking, you know, increases in the 100 to 300% range. I mean, significant increases year over year when they're comparing budgets from last year," Vance said. 

Many farmers are turning to manure as a possible alternative.

Megan Dresbach is the VP of W.D. Farms LLC. She specializes in manure management, transportation and application.

"We are getting some more phone calls of, 'Hey, my neighbor has a barn and I would like some manure. How do I have that conversation?' So the demand, I believe, is increasing because the manure bill looks a lot better than the commercial fertilizer bill. And this has allowed us to talk and have those conversations and to bring more people on board. There's a lot of manure and it can be utilized and it needs to be utilized correctly," Dresbach said.

"When you think about the history of crop production, manure is the original fertilizer, really. Most farms, if you go back 100 years, you know, maybe had some pigs or cattle or chickens or maybe all of the above. My grandparents' farms had all of the above. And so what did you do with that manure? You spread it out all over your crop fields. And lo and behold, the crops grew better. You know, corn grew taller and greener and so on," Vance said. "This is a great alternative and has been for a number of years. If you're a livestock operation, Ohio has a number of chicken, swine operations, and some turkey operations, certainly a lot of dairy operations. Those farms all have to find a home, so to speak, for that manure. Sometimes it's on their owned crop fields. But other times, it's neighbors in the area who are also raising corn, soybeans, wheat. And it's a natural relationship or partnership. Get the nutrients into useful fields and offset that huge fertilizer bill that farmers are seeing this growing season."