Farm Horizons, February 2008
Corn, soybeans, or wheat?
Farmers have several profitable crop options to consider this year for cash crops in our area.
I don’t ever recall the grain market in January (21) being so strong for the major cash crops of corn, soybeans, and wheat. So, what should a farmer plant?
Many growers have already applied fertilizer on a portion of their corn acres so these acres are committed.
This may be a good year, though, to include wheat into a crop rotation. Many farms in southern Minnesota have been in a corn/soybean rotation since the 70s and 80s.
Inserting wheat into a rotation helps reduce pest pressure that builds up over time.
A good example of this is corn rootworm. This insect was managed years ago by simply using a corn/soybean rotation. Years ago, corn rootworms laid eggs at the base of the corn plant and 99+ percent of the eggs hatched the following year.
Over time, that very small (less than 1 percent) percentage of the rootworm population whose eggs lay dormant one year and hatch the following year has grown considerably.
Entomologists think in some parts of the state, up to 60 percent of the rootworm eggs now lay dormant one year and hatch the following year. Entomologists have used the term diapause to describe this type of behavior, so the corn/soybean rotation is no longer effective in managing rootworms in these areas.
This is the case for much of southern and western Minnesota where growers discovered in 2007 the value of a corn rootworm hybrid.
Joe Lauer, Extension Corn Specialist in Wisconsin, spoke at the December U of M Crop Pest Management Clinic on the value of a three-crop rotation.
What they learned in Wisconsin is that soybeans benefit greatly by a three-crop rotation and corn benefits very little. Soybeans appear to have more disease issues than corn, therefore a three-crop rotation gives soybeans a significant yield boost 28 percent.
The other item they learned is that rotation is more noticeable in stressful environments.
Corn yields, in general, were disappointing for growers who planted corn-on-corn this past year. Had we picked up a couple of timely rain showers in July, the outcome would most likely have been more favorable.
Another sensible way to decide which crop to grow is to “grow what you grow best”. Al Kluis made this comment at a recent marketing seminar sponsored by Gold Country Seed.
I know farms that struggle with soybean yields for one reason or another. In other cases it may be corn.
The bottom line is growers should pick the crop that will be most profitable on their farm this year and be sure to take advantage of these wonderful marketing opportunities.