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15 things you can control this crop season

The more you control, the better handle you can have on cost of production and when to sell grain.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 10, 2023

3 Min Read
 grain being loaded into cart
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN: Lower your cost of production by controlling what you can. The lower the production cost per bushel, the easier it will be to sell grain above breakeven. Tom J. Bechman

Farmers know a lot of what impacts their crop yields is out of their hands. You can’t control how much rain you get or when. And you can’t move the thermometer up or down. Yet Greg Knuebuhler says there are 15 things you control.

Take charge over these 15 factors and rein in cost of production. Once you know cost of production, you know better when to pull the trigger on selling opportunities for grain.

Kneubuhler owns G&K Concepts, a crops consulting business near Harlan, Ind. He is assisted by Rob McGuire. G&K Concepts works with Brookside Labs and is a part of Amplify, a network of independent crops consultants.

Here are 15 factors that affect crop production that a farmer can control:

1. What you can vs. what you can’t. Accept what you can’t change. However, if you can manage it, figure out how to do it effectively, Kneubuhler says.

2. Soil moisture. Can you install drainage tile or irrigation cost-effectively? If so, you increase control over a yield-limiting variable: moisture.

3. Soil type. Nature and other factors determined the soil types on your farm. Can you farm them more effectively using variable-rate fertilizer spreading, variable-rate seeding or even variable-rate nitrogen application? Does multi-hybrid planting capability make sense?

4. Insect, weed and disease problems. A commitment to scout your crops is within your control, Kneubuhler says. You also control which pesticides you apply for which pests.

5. Hybrid genetics. Not all corn or soybean genetics are equal. Testing which ones are best on your farm is up to you.

6. Information insurance. Test not only hybrids and varieties, but also possible production practices each year, McGuire says. Test before you commit hundreds of acres to a certain strategy or approach.

7. Planting efficiency. Would investing in speed tubes to get more acres planted during narrower suitable windows pay?

8. Subsoil aeration. Is compaction so tough in some fields that you should rip? Do you need to adjust other practices to limit soil compaction?

9. Soil pH extremes. If pH levels are in the mid-5s or lower or the mid-7s or higher, consider adjustments. Variable-rate liming is an option.

10. Herbicide stress. If you’re seeing herbicide injury or carryover, adjust your herbicide program.

11. Soil fertility. Where are soil fertility levels, especially for phosphorus and potassium? Can you cut back? Do some areas need more P and K?

12. Soil testing. Without soil testing, you are farming blind, Knuebuher says. If you’re not soil testing, that’s an area that will offer a quick return on investment.

13. Financial matters. Are you keeping financial records on paper or with software? If not, look for another ROI boost here. Programs like Paydirt help you improve financial efficiency.

14. Other test results. If you don’t have test results and need information to make decisions, check who else tests in your area, McGuire advises. For example, G&K Concepts conducted thorough testing on nitrification inhibitors. If you have a question about when they pay, that is a place to start.

15. N placement and timing. Know where and when you are more likely to get a payoff from nitrogen on your farm. Test it yourself, but also look for other information, McGuire says.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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