One of the two big fertiliser co-operatives, Ravensdown, has reduced the price of nitrogen fertiliser for the fourth time this year.
The company has cut the urea price by $30 a tonne to $620 a tonne, bringing back to the level it was in December 2007, before a dramatic rise in international commodity prices pushed up the price to more than $1,100 a tonne.
Ravensdown chairman Bill McLeod says the co-operative wants to encourage farmers to apply nitrogen to boost spring pasture growth after the cold, wet winter.
He says farmers are under financial pressure, but cutting back on maintenance fertiliser at a time when they need to lift production is the worst thing they could do.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients, the other big fertiliser co-operative, says while farmers have cut their spending this year, it is nowhere near the 50% drop in fertiliser use that occured during the 1980s rural downturn.
The company's head of agro-sciences, Warwick Catto, says the big difference in this recession is that few farmers have stopped applying fertiliser altogether.
He says farmers remember the consequences of stopping fertiliser use, including the loss of pasture species like ryegrass that underpins the farm system.
Mr Catto says farmers have the benefit of better science and more technical support to help them use fertiliser more wisely.