If you believe the credit card commercials, some events in life are indeed priceless.

You can get the same kind of deal when you use Crop Check, a Web-based record system for your crop production and financial records.

Crop Check is free to anyone with Internet access. It's funded in part with checkoff dollars through the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) and coordinated through the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA).

The Web site (www.cropcheck.org) has seen more activity than anticipated since it went on line Dec. 1, 2001. “The downloads have exceeded our expectations,” says David Wright, Crop Check coordinator with ISA. “More than 1,100 users have downloaded the software and 145 have input their 2001 data and analyzed it. Many farmers tell us they're waiting until the end of the 2002 crop year before they input farm data.”

Using FINPACK-compatible software, Crop Check allows farmers to analyze their operation from a production and financial standpoint, at no cost, and lets them compare their data with other farmers around the country in a secure and anonymous environment.

So far, farmers from 18 states have gone online and downloaded the software. Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Ohio all had at least 10 farmers sign up. Farmers from North Dakota to Alabama, Kansas to South Carolina have signed up as well.

The initial data already points out profit differences. Farmers who plant Roundup Ready soybeans tend to have lower herbicide costs and higher yields. Tiling shows a 6 bu advantage over non-tiled fields. And SCN-resistant varieties show a clear yield benefit over non-SCN resistant varieties (see charts).

So far, the data includes results from 113,073 tillable acres, with the median tillable acres/farm hitting 509 acres. The median corn acres per farm is 210; soybeans is 205.

The largest farmer using Crop Check reports 6,300 tillable acres, while the smallest has 40 acres.

“The data indicates that many small, diversified farms with both crops and livestock are using Crop Check,” says Wright. “Small farmers, just like larger ones, are looking for ways to extract more profit from their operation.”

Many farmers using the database are treating their total corn acres and soybean acres as one field, adds Wright. “Actually, the program is designed so they can take a detailed look at each individual field,” he says. “As they look at the value of the information they get from the program, they'll eventually go field by field to get more accurate information.”

Production data show that the median corn planting date was April 30 in 2001, with a median population of 30,000 seeds planted at a median speed of 5 mph. Median yield came in at 150 bu.

For soybeans, the median planting date was May 15 in 2001, with a median population of 180,000 seeds planted at 5.5 mph. Median yield was 44.9 bu.

“That's right in line with grower data we've seen in other databases,” says Wright. “It's slightly above the national average.

“So far, growers who have used Crop Check have found it very useful to tweak their operation for more profit,” he says.