Every year, in the late fall, we farmers must start making decisions for the next growing season. We will do just about anything to avoid that thought process: “I don’t want to pick a hybrid that I haven’t seen on my farm.” or “I’m not sure what fertilizer will cost for the next season.” or “I don’t want to plant any soybeans with the current market situation.” Etc…
The facts are, we could (and should!) make some assumptions based on what we have had success with in the past. We are creatures of habit. If we planted 50% of our acres to corn over the last ten years, it is probable that we will plant 50% to corn next year. If there is a hybrid that has historically performed well on your farm, be sure to visit with your seed salesperson and make a planting plan. They might even have new varieties that are even better than your old favorites. Using that thought process as a template for the next growing season should make some buying decisions easier.
The ability of today’s technology to access and utilize long term weather data, current year weather information, soil test results, yield history, amount of fertilizer used by the plant, and projected vs. potential yield goals is amazing. Fertilizer needs can be estimated and then, later, fine-tuned to meet specific yield goals. There are even some great computer applications for tracking plant fertilizer use that are available for purchase. Today’s fertility management capabilities are significantly superior to just 10 years ago. I have seen yield increases of up to 30 bushels/acre attributed to late season fertilizer applications. That alone equates a 300% rate of return – even when a higher priced custom application was used and even when calculated with the highest 2018 price/lb of nitrogen. Will this be the result every year? I can’t answer that, but, I have found this higher rate of return to be consistent across several seasons of testing and believe that it is worthy of further utilization.
Some farmers may be contemplating fewer soybean acres in 2019 due to the seemingly low market prices, yet, when I do the math for input management, soybeans are the best net return per acre if I lock in next year’s November price and using my long-term yield average. The risk/reward of planting soybeans makes me lean toward planting the same number of acres or even a few more next year.
I am looking forward to starting 2019 with great soil moisture and only slightly higher fertilizer costs. That sure makes all this decision-making a lot more fun!
Featured Image Credit: Dafne Cholet