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Farmers sticking to their crop rotation guns

Agriculture.com Staff 11/17/2008 @ 3:13pm

Input costs are downright crazy right now, and the grain markets are far from stable. These factors -- and others -- make it tough to nail down how you can best maximize your inputs and expenses when it comes to crop rotation.

So, when everything else is so up-in-the-air, it's causing some farmers to take a balanced approach as they look ahead to '09 crop rotations. There are factors today that play a larger role in crop rotation decisions, but for many, it's what makes the most agronomic sense that goes through the planter tubes in the spring.

"We're sticking with our usual corn-soybeans-and some wheat rotation. We've worked the pencil on input costs and futures prices and don't see any economic reasons to override the agronomic reasons that lead us to rotate," says Agriculture Online Crop Talk member cz4586. "We're pretty much locked in now. We've booked our seed and have spread fertilizer."

An approach like this, though some might see it as limiting options for the '09 crop, has plenty of merit in today's time of high volatility, according to Purdue University ag economist Bruce Erickson.

"The input side still leaves margins at considerable risk, but if you're confident in the seasonal variability, purchases can be made accordingly," he says. "Having the ability to store inputs on the farm in bulk can help you take advantage of fluctuating prices."

Crop Talk member kinsman1909250 says he's also looking for more balance in his crop rotation for 2009, but for a different reason. He says he planted more corn than usual this year, and now he's looking at fewer corn acres in '09 as a way to chip away at carryover levels, thereby hopefully contributing to a higher corn price down the road, he says.

"This last year, I was 66% corn. Next year, I'm planning on being back to 50/50 rotation. If everyone planted 10% to 15% fewer acres of corn, the carryover would quickly be used up. It would make sense for everyone to plant less," he says. "Instead of $3.50 corn, we would have $5.50 corn."

But, it may take $5.50-per-bushel corn to make corn work in '09, says Erickson. Costs are rising for all crops, which makes it all that more important for farmers to establish '09 crop rotations with a sharp eye on the bottom line, regardless of what's grown.

"The cost of growing corn, soybeans and wheat increased dramatically for the 2008 crop and substantial increases are expected again for the 2009 growing season," Erickson says. "Our preliminary budgets, based on an assessment of the seed, chemical and fertilizer industries, show variable costs for rotational corn increasing by 29%, compared to 40% for soybeans and 39% for wheat."

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Input costs are downright crazy right now, and the grain markets are far from stable. These factors -- and others -- make it tough to nail down how you can best maximize your inputs and expenses when it comes to crop rotation.

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