For some of you, the question for the Indiana Certified Crop Advisers panel this month may be too close for comfort. A farmer reports that his lender has told him he must cut $30 per acre off his projected soybean costs if he wants the loan. Land and machinery are locked in. Where can he cut without dropping yield potential?
This month’s panel includes Jeff Nagel, an agronomist with Ceres Solutions, Lafayette, and Darrell Shemwell, branch manager of the Poseyville location for Posey County Co-op.
Both agree cutting the budget will force difficult choices. Four areas to look at are seed cost, seeding rates, broadcast fertilizer and crop protection.
Nagel: Select high-yielding varieties with the disease package needed for your fields. There are many good seed treatment options, but evaluate how they’re priced and if you need each component.
Shemwell: Review what you have done in the past, and see what has worked or not worked for you. For example, did you see a benefit from seed treatments, such as better stands, less insect feeding or quicker emergence? If the answer is no, maybe this is a place to reduce costs.
Nagel: As you are for corn, revisit soybean seeding rates. See if rates can be reduced given the varieties you are planting and your farming practices.
Shemwell: Maybe reducing population, or in this case, seeds per acre planted, could save you a few dollars per acre, but not a lot. Seed costs typically average about $4.60 per 10,000 seeds. Even a reduction of this size would be a cost savings.
Nagel: Again as for corn, an intensive soil testing program is critical. It will help you decide where your fertilizer dollars could be most profitable.
Shemwell: Growers may be looking at reducing phosphorus and potassium rates. Before you do this, you need to know your soil nutrient levels in each field. Unless you know what soil test levels are, you don’t know if reducing the rate of P and K or skipping an application this year is viable.
Nagel: Crop protection is challenging as more glyphosate-resistant weeds are forcing farmers to spend more for weed control to protect yield. Be careful trying to cut corners here. It might be tempting to omit a soil-applied residual herbicide at planting, but often rescue treatments are needed and will cost more. Yield can also be reduced, since weeds compete longer and may not be controlled with rescue treatments.
Shemwell: Reducing herbicide cost is not really an option because you have to control weeds, so you have to use a system that will kill weeds. I think most growers are pretty conservative when it comes to producing crops, with what they spend for all inputs. Most of the time, it’s the small items you can manage that will turn into a larger savings in the end.