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The 2 biggest paybacks in farmingThe 2 biggest paybacks in farming

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

Tom J. Bechman

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.”

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