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Fertilizing crops: UAF seeking solution to urea shortage

Submitted by Nancy Tarnai
Phone: 907-474-5042

12/24/08

University of Alaska Fairbanks agriculture experts are stepping up to help farmers across the state find solutions to a recent 300- to 400-percent increase in fertilizer prices.

Researchers from UAF's School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and outreach specialists and agents from the Cooperative Extension Service met in Anchorage Dec. 22 to discuss ways to help farmers deal with a fertilizer shortage prompted by the depletion of the state's sole supply of urea.

The problem surfaced when Agrium Inc. closed its urea plant in Nikiski a year ago. Urea, a white crystalline solid containing 46 percent nitrogen, is widely used in the agricultural industry as fertilizer. A dwindling supply of the product remains, but Alaska farmers are beginning to order fertilizer from out of state and will have to pay associated shipping costs. World economic factors have resulted in similar or greater price increases in other fertilizer components. These price increases and the new price volatility have increased risk for commercial agricultural producers. Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station associate director Milan Shipka said committees with specific areas of expertise will begin reviewing existing research for possible solutions. Committee members will make recommendations for specific crops, including hay crops, turf grass, grains and vegetables, and identify future research needs.

"When farmers have the best information it helps them plan better and run their businesses more efficiently," Shipka explained.

CONTACT: Milan Shipka, at 907-474-7429 or ffmps@uaf.edu. Nancy Tarnai, School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences public information officer, at 907-474-5042 or fnnjt@uaf.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Reporters who want to contact Shipka during the holiday break should send him an e-mail at the above address.

NT/12-24-08/080-09

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