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Serving: IN

Check Soils Map Before Agreeing to Last-minute Land Deal

Check Soils Map Before Agreeing to Last-minute Land Deal
Be sure 'too good to be true' isn't too good to be true.

Anecdotal evidence indicates some farmland in various places may still be up for rent at this late date. Either older farmers are farming it and decide to retire instead of put out another crop, or deals are falling through at the last minute. If you or a neighbor hear of one of these and want to bid on the land, or assume it either on the halves or even two-thirds/ one-thirds shares, do yourself a favor. Ask some questions first.

For example, one large tract in central Indiana was up for grabs a couple weeks ago. When the farmer checked it out on the soils map, it's 90% flood plain soils. The majority is Gennessee, meaning it is well-drained, but there is at least some poorly to somewhat poorly drained soil. He may still rent the farm, but at least now he knows what he's getting into. If he rents the farm, he tells Indiana Prairie Farmer that it will only be if he can get crop insurance on the acreage.

Crop insurance sources say insurance is available on most tracts, although there are some rare fields rated as such high hazard that only the basic products are offered on those fields. And although the deadline for buying crop insurance is past now, if a farmer added a county to his policy just in case he found land to rent there later, before the deadline, he apparently can still sign it up now. The best advice in this case is to talk to your crop insurance agent before you make assumptions that you can get insurance and make a commitment on that basis.

You can find soils information from the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the Web soil survey. Some county soil and water conservation district offices still have paper maps available for their counties, while others don't- supplies are exhausted and won't be reprinted.

Here are other questions experts suggest asking before taking on property this late in the game:

Soil test information- This would be very helpful. Perhaps the landowner or previous tenant has copies of the most recent tests. If it hasn't been tested within four years and you' rent the ground, you may want a consultant to at least test part of the acreage before you begin applying fertilizer.

How will it fit? Does it mean you're going to be short on combine power next fall if you add this acreage? Or is it just enough that you can still handle it?

Labor force- Do you have the labor to take on extra acreage right now?

Short-term?- What's the odds it will be only a one-year situation? If so, can you afford to make equipment trades or major changes just for one year?

Is it flood ground or underlain with gravel? Only a soils map will tell you this for sure. If you're not experienced in dealing with soils maps, consult your local SWCD office.

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