BYRON CENTER, Mich. — Input costs continue to loom large for Michigan grower-shippers.

Many Michigan asparagus growers bought fuel before prices spiked earlier this spring, said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt. Overall, he said, input costs are similar to what they’ve been the past year or two.

Fertilizer and other inputs remain high, but growers have made a more or less permanent adjustment to that reality.

“People are starting to realize that’s the new normal,” he said.

Fuel costs are up and, a bit more of a surprise, so is fertilizer, said Dave Miedema, president of Byron Center-based E. Miedema & Sons.

“Nitrogen is up $200 per ton, which we weren’t expecting,” he said.

From soil sampling to planning fertilizer and chemical applications via GPS, Michigan grower-shippers like Hudsonville-based Miedema Produce Inc. are relying on sophisticated methods for reducing input costs, said Todd Miedema, marketing director and a principal.

“All costs have gone up, and it forces you to look at things much more closely and to invest in technologies,” he said.

A mild winter will mean tighter spray schedules, and therefore higher pesticide costs, for Michigan asparagus growers, said Tyler Hodges, sales manager for Hart-based Todd Greiner Farms.

Other than that, input costs should be manageable, he said.

“There are slight increases on certain things, but nothing too drastic.”

In 2011 there were rumors that packaging costs could rise substantially in 2012, but so far that hasn’t been the case, said Todd DeWaard, sales manager for Hudsonville-based Superior Sales.

Input costs in general should be manageable this season, he said.

“We haven’t heard of anything jumping off.”

High fuel costs and the related effects on other petroleum-based grower-shipper inputs continue to burden the Michigan fruit and vegetable industry, said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management in the Grand Junction, Mich., office of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.

“It’s certainly increasing, and it continues to be a major hit to growers’ profits,” he said. “It affects fertilizer, everything.”

And earlier reports that fuel costs could go down in 2012 have proved woefully inaccurate, Bocock said.

“They were supposed to go down, but they already have to go down just to get to last year’s levels,” he said.

Seed, mulch and plastic prices are up this year, and some chemical and fertilizer prices up and others are down, said Fred Leitz, principal in Sodus-based Leitz Farms LLC.