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Most people involved in the crop nutrient industry will admit there is rarely new information to use for marketing communications efforts. New products do not come around that often, and price and availability often dominate discussions. So while it's well known that proper soil fertility is vitally important to maximize crop yields and quality, giving that message a fresh approach can be a real challenge. But now The Mosaic Company, a Minneapolis-based industry leader formed last fall by the combination of Cargill Crop Nutrition and IMC Global Inc., has created a new reason for dealers and growers to get excited about soil fertility.


Mosaic worked with Doane Agricultural Services to investigate the correlation of farmland prices and the level of soil fertility. The study, which was the first of its kind, compared recent farmland sales transactions in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska to area averages.

"We wanted to prove that better soil fertility levels lead to increased land value. This theory makes sense, but hadn't been studied before," explains Dr. Ray Hoyum, who works in international specialty marketing and new product development for Mosaic. "We thought this would be another effective way for us to reinforce our soil fertility messages."

Results showed that indeed a positive relationship existed between land value and soil fertility. Specifically, farmland that rated "high" for soil fertility brought an average selling price 28 percent higher than the area averages for farmland values, and land with a "very high" soil fertility rating brought a startling 62 percent higher sale price when compared to local averages.

The study also included a survey of 100 real estate agents who sell farmland; these agents estimated that 90 percent of buyers are interested in soil test data.

Randy Groff, manager of marketing and communications, Mosaic Company
"Increasing the value of land is another great reason for growers to implement and maintain a balanced soil fertility program," says Randy Groff, manager of marketing and communications for The Mosaic Company. "Our challenge was to communicate this information to growers, dealers, ag lenders and other industry influencers."


The company's Back-to-Basics educational initiative provided the perfect platform for this new message. Established six years ago, Back-to-Basics has earned a solid reputation for educating dealers and growers about the importance of balanced soil fertility. Each year, Back-to-Basics has presented this story with a new twist, such as "Narrowing the Yield Gap" and "Lessening the Impact of Weather on Yield."

Soil fertility is almost always associated with increased yield and quality and plant health issues, but the land value message gives Mosaic another facet of soil fertility to discuss with its dealer customers. Equipped with an added benefit when talking about soil fertility, dealers in turn can share the message with their grower customers.

"Producing top yields depends on good luck with Mother Nature," adds Hoyum. "We wanted to create awareness that maintaining proper soil fertility is one thing that can be controlled, and that higher land value through increased soil fertility is important."


"We had a broad audience with whom we wanted to share this message," explains Groff. "So we implemented a variety of tactics to get the word out that improved soil fertility can increase land value."

The land value message has become an important component for Mosaic's presence at trade shows. For example, Hoyum presented findings from the study at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) annual meeting, and a copy of the study was included in a room drop at the Ag Retailers Association (ARA) convention. The message was also shared with corn and soybean growers at this year's Commodity Classic.

"We knew agricultural lenders, a relatively new audience for Mosaic and the Back-to-Basics program, could also benefit from this information," says Groff. "We made sure copies of the study were available at the American Bankers Association Ag Bankers Conference this past fall."

Immediately after the study was completed, a press release detailing the study was sent to ag weeklies in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and surrounding states, as well as to selected national grower publications. This resulted in several key articles in the targeted geography. Just recently, Mosaic introduced a new brochure that outlines the study's results and the importance of soil fertility. It has been distributed via mailings to dealers, farm managers and crop consultants, and is planned for use at various trade shows.

When the industry is better educated on the importance of soil fertility, growers are better able to make informed soil fertility management decisions. This is positive not only for Mosaic, but for everyone else who markets and sells fertilizer. The land value study provided a new angle for Mosaic and its dealer customers to take when discussing soil fertility with growers. And that's something the entire fertilizer industry can get excited about. AM

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