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The extra edge

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:22pm

Looking to shave $3 to $4 per acre in crop production costs, prevent yield losses, and separate yourself from the pack? If you have the aptitude, spraying your crops with your own sprayer is one way to do it.

"The more things you can do yourself, the better your chance to make a difference with management," says Terry Kastens, Kansas State University (K-State) Extension agricultural economist. "If you run your own sprayer and are knowledgeable in doing so, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to make more money."

He cautions, however, that you must know your ownership costs. Records show that custom rates are cheaper for the majority of Kansas farms even though ownerships give more control.

Looking to shave $3 to $4 per acre in crop production costs, prevent yield losses, and separate yourself from the pack? If you have the aptitude, spraying your crops with your own sprayer is one way to do it.

"Timing is most important with postemergence herbicides," says Chris Boerboom, University of Wisconsin Extension weed scientist. "If bad weather causes a backlog for your custom applicator, you can spray fields that need to be sprayed immediately if you own your own sprayer."

Yet, many farmers still would be better off going with custom chemical applications. K-State analysis from 2003 shows the average farmer's machinery and operation costs are approximately 30% higher than custom rates. Just one fourth of farms in the analysis have machinery costs lower than custom rates, says Kastens.

You'll also have to consider tendering costs of a trailer, tanks, and sometimes an extra employee to move the tendering equipment from field to field. Having a second employee may not always be an efficient use of labor, since there is considerable downtime between sprayer fills.

You'll also need to ask yourself if you have the aptitude for doing your own spraying. The plethora of chemical combinations and applications that customer applicators take care of now rests on your shoulders. You're also responsible for maintenance.

Given a choice, wouldn't you rather do a job yourself valued at $100 per hour than one at $5 per hour?

Buying used is often a viable and money-saving option compared to buying new for implements like tractors or combines. But it's not as clear-cut for sprayers.

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