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The 2 biggest paybacks in farming

Crops consultant shares his views on the investments that offer the biggest returns.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 9, 2023

1 Min Read
grain bins
STEEL AND PLASTIC: If you ask crops consultant Greg Kneubuhler to name the top two investments most farmers could make today, he doesn’t hesitate with an answer: plastic and steel. Translated, that’s pattern-tile drainage and grain bins. Tom J. Bechman

What are the best investments in farming that could net the largest returns over time? If you could ask 500 farmers in the eastern Corn Belt this question, what answers would you get?

Perhaps land? A combine? A planter with the newest technology? Or would it be an electric utility tractor, or maybe a decked-out skid steer or ATV?

Greg Kneubuhler knows how he would answer. An independent crops consultant in northeast Indiana, Kneubuhler owns and operates G&K Concepts near Harlan. He interacts with hundreds of farmers each year.

“The two best payoffs in farming for most people today are in plastic and steel,” he says. “To be specific, I am talking about tiling and erecting grain bins.”

Why plastic, steel?

“Water management is huge,” Kneubuhler says. “In my part of the world in northeast Indiana, the No. 1 problem most years is poor drainage. Soils are productive, but tight and naturally wet. Pattern tiling not only makes them even more productive, but it allows you to be timely in field operations — especially planting in the spring. With climate shifts underway, the planting window seems to be narrower, and it really pays if you can get on soils sooner.”

In areas where soils are droughty, irrigation might be the investment of choice. That could mean investing in steel through center-pivot irrigation or plastic through drip-tape irrigation systems.

“On the marketing side, grain bins appear to pay good dividends over time,” Kneubuhler says. “It may not pay to store every single year, but over time, there are generally opportunities for strong return on investment.”

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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