Don’t waste your money on bogus nontraditional fertilizer products

By ED LENTZ and ROBERT MULLEN

WOOSTER, Ohio — Many products are frequently marketed as the latest and greatest technology that will improve agronomic productivity of all major crops in Ohio. The question is which ones are legitimate and which ones are wastes of money?

Real or fake?

Here are a few simple ways to evaluate whether or not what you are being sold is real or bogus.

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This old adage is almost always true. So, if something is promising tremendous yield improvements by supplying adequate nutrition, suppressing weeds, improving soil health with a small application rate, it is most likely not going to deliver the desired benefits.

2. Take a lesson from the first law of thermodynamics (that states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed — it simply changes form). In our case, nutrients can neither be created nor destroyed, they can only be shuttled between different pools.

So, if a product states that application of this material is equal to 50 pounds of phosphorus per acre, and the material fertilizer analysis (required on the bag by law) has 20 percent phosphorus and the application rate is not 250 pounds per acre, you are not supplying the same amount of nutrients at a rate of 50 pounds per acre.

The maximum efficiency of any system is 100 percent, so how can this product magically supply more than is being applied?

3. Look for un-biased research results. Many products are vetted through land-grant universities to determine their potential usefulness. Just because a product works at some remote location does not necessarily mean it will work on your farm (this is why land-grant universities conduct field research). If the individual selling you the product is also the individual conducting the research be wary.

4. Before completely adopting an alternative product to be used on the entire farm, evaluate the product on a limited basis and make simple comparisons to current practices. If you see no yield advantages, you have your answer.

Remembering these simple rules can help you separate good products from bad. In addition, university research and Extension soil fertility specialists in the Corn Belt also maintain a data base on nontraditional agriculture products.

Guidelines

The criteria to be included in the database follows these guidelines:

• at least two site years of research, with multiple crops or varieties substituting for a site-year;
• authors listed;
• replicated with statistical analysis;
• reasonably applicable to north central USA crop production;
• reference source available; and
• author permission.

These are also good guidelines for a producer to consider for legitimacy of a nontraditional product. The Web site is located at http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/compendium/index.aspx.

More information

Contact Ed Lentz at 419-447-9722 or at lentz.38@osu.edu or Robert Mullen at 330-263-3785 or at mullen.91@osu.edu for more information about this committee.

If you would like to evaluate a nontraditional product, contact your county Extension agriculture educator to set up an on-farm experiment.

(Reprinted from the April 7-14, 2009, Ohio State University Extension Agronomic Crops Team C.O.R.N. Newsletter 2009-08.)

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