Kyle Mehmen, Plainfield, Iowa
We’ve been a corn-on-corn family for quite some time, usually with a 90/10 rotation. For the past couple of years, it’s been a no brainer (to grow corn). I don’t have any hard or fast rules. In general, whenever there is less than a $50 acre net difference between corn and soybeans, I start looking at the intangibles.
How much better corn do I grow with corn behind soybeans? How does my workload look? And if I get more acres, do I have to add more equipment and people because of corn on corn? All those things come to mind.
I usually compare 180 acres per bushel and 50 bushels per acre soybeans, which are typical in my area.
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When one is red and one is black, it’s a pretty easy decision to say, ‘I’m going black.’ When you’re in the black on both, it’s easier to say that the intangibles are worth something to me. The tie for me always goes to corn.
I am more comfortable with corn and I have more consistency there. I feel like I have a little bit more control over that. With soybeans I feel like I roll the dice every year.
Neil Wagner, Wayne, Ohio
In 2006 when the price differential became extreme, we switched to corn-on-corn. We’re (now) set up for drying corn and moving a lot of corn. So it would have to be a pretty drastic change in corn prices for us to change out of that. The decision isn’t just about corn and bean prices. It’s about our operation, and it’s a pretty complicated question when you start analyzing the numbers.
We used to be vegetable growers for Campbell’s soup, had 350 acres of tomatoes grown on slightly lighter soil where corn actually does better. That plays into the equation for us.
We would switch at $20 beans and $2 corn. If we went back to $13 per bushel beans, with corn being at $4 to $4.50/bu we would (probably) start to switch, but without knowing what the market is going to do, we would be slightly reluctant even at that extreme. We’re creatures of habit.
Right now new-crop corn is from $4.40 to $4.60. We can’t do that and make any money. If we found out that N was going to be $600 per ton instead of $300, we’d scratch our head a little and see what we could do with forward pricing and come up with a rational decision, including how many other farmers will take the bait and grow beans.
That said… I’m pretty stubborn to change.
Nathan Wentworth, Warrensburg, Ill.
Soybeans over $12 per bushel coupled with declining corn prices and steady input costs have already led us to decrease our corn-on-corn acres. Agronomic factors also contributed significantly to that decision.
Bean prices have been so high at $14 to $15 per bushel, and our bean yields have stayed the same, about 55 to 60 bushels per acre. It really pencils out economically.
It isn’t necessarily just about the price of corn, but what our expenses are going to be, particularly the cost of N fertilizers. At this point (August), fall 2013 anhydrous ammonia will cost about $750 per ton, or $0.46 per pound of N, or approximately $100 per acre. With corn prices at $4.50 per bushel, coupled with the potential for reduced yield in second-year corn, we opt to plant soybeans.
As for the agronomic factors, the dry conditions since 2010 have made the yield drag from corn-on-corn more pronounced in this area. Corn yields of 200 to 250 bushels per acre aren't uncommon in east-central Illinois, but in some fields, for maybe a variety of reasons, yields have been reduced dramatically in second-year corn in our area.
That was enough to make us, and several others in our area, rethink corn-on-corn.