Corn, Soybean and Wheat Enterprise Budgets – Projected Returns for 2021 Increasing Fertilizer Prices May Force Tough Decisions

Source: Barry Ward, John Barker, OSU Extension

The profit margin outlook for corn, soybeans and wheat is relatively positive as planting season approaches. Prices of all three of our main commodity crops have moved higher since last summer and forward prices for this fall are currently at levels high enough to project positive returns for 2021 crop production. Recent increases in fertilizer prices have negatively affected projected returns. Higher crop insurance costs as well as moderately higher energy costs relative to last year will also add to overall costs for 2021.

Production costs for Ohio field crops are forecast to be modestly higher compared to last year with higher fertilizer, fuel and crop insurance expenses. Variable costs for corn in Ohio for 2021 are projected to range from $386 to $470 per acre depending on land productivity. Variable costs for 2021 Ohio soybeans are projected to range from $216 to $242 per acre. Wheat variable expenses for 2021 are projected to range from $166 to $198 per acre.

Returns (excluding government payments) will likely be higher for many producers depending on price movement throughout the rest of the growing year. Grain prices currently used as assumptions in the 2021 crop enterprise budgets are $4.30/bushel for corn, $11.55/bushel for soybeans and $6.25/bushel for wheat. Projected returns above variable costs (contribution margin) range from $216 to $434 per acre for corn and $284 to $509 per acre for soybeans. Projected returns above variable costs for wheat range from $193 to $342 per acre. As a reminder, fixed costs (overhead) must be paid from these returns above variable costs. Fixed costs include machinery ownership costs, land costs including rent and payment for owner operator labor and management including other unpaid family labor.

Fertilizer prices continue to increase.  If you have not checked fertilizer prices lately, be prepared for some sticker shock. Producers with some fertilizer purchased and stored or pre-priced prior to recent price increases will likely see a healthier bottom line this upcoming crop year.

Those with little or no fertilizer pre-purchased and stored or pre-priced may want to consider using P and K buildup to furnish crop needs this year in anticipation of possibly lower prices in the future.  Now may be a good time review your fertilizer plans as you are considering how to best utilize your financial resources in 2021.

  • Use realistic yield goals.  Yield goals vary by field.  Each field has unique characteristics that can impact yield.
  • Utilize crop removal rates to determine crop nutrient needs.  Crop removal rates can be found in the new Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa (Tables 15 and 16), available at your local Extension Office.
  • Start with a recent soil test.  If your soil test levels are in the maintenance range or higher, 2021 may be a good year to “borrow” from your soil nutrient bank.

As an example, a 150-bushel corn crop will remove about 55 pounds of P2O5 per acre in the harvested grain.  This would result in a reduction in the soil test level of approximately 3 ppm.

Current budget analyses indicates favorable returns for soybeans compared to corn but crop price change and harvest yields may change this outcome. These projections are based on OSU Extension Ohio Crop Enterprise Budgets. Newly updated Enterprise Budgets for 2021 have been completed and posted to the Farm Office website: https://farmoffice.osu.edu/farm-mgt-tools/farm-budgets

 

Summary of Multi-State State Research on Soybean Row Width, Planting Date, and Plant Population

Source: Dr. Laura Lindsey, OSU Extension

With funding from the United Soybean Board, soybean agronomists across the US came together to summarize soybean row width, planting date, and seeding rate research trials. (Ohio-specific research trials were funded by Ohio Soybean Council.) Here’s what we found:

Row width: Soybean row width varies across the US. In Ohio, most farmers plant soybean in 7.5, 15, or 30-inch row widths. Across the US, narrow rows (7 to 15 inch) out-yielded wide rows (≥ 30 inches) 69% of the time. Narrow rows tend to out-yield wide rows due to earlier canopy closure which facilitates light interception and drives photosynthesis. For the full report on row spacing: https://soybeanresearchinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FINAL-2700-002-20-Row-Spacing_Science-for-Success-Dec-22_v1.pdf

Planting date: The date of planting has more effect on soybean grain yield than any other production practice. In many instances, this means planting soybean as early as field conditions allow, but generally at or after the Risk Management Agency (RMA) replant crop insurance dates begin. In Ohio, we estimate a yield reduction of 8% when planting soybean on May 31 compared to May 1. Although, this reduction can vary (or become minimal) depending on rainfall during the R3 to R5 growth stage. For the full report on planting date: https://soybeanresearchinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FINAL-2700-002-20-Planting-Date_Science-for-Success_Dec-22_v3.pdf

Population Density: Soybean plants respond to their environment through branching and can produce maximum yields at relatively low plant densities (plants per acre). For normal planting dates in the Midwest, generally 100,000 to 125,00 plants per acre is required to achieve maximum yield. (A higher population density is needed as soybeans are planted into June and July.) For the full report on population density: https://soybeanresearchinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FINAL.2700-002-20-Seeding-Rate_Science-for-Success_Dec-23_v1-1.pdf

Interested in more? Soybean agronomists, Dr. Shawn Conley (University of Wisconsin- Madison), Dr. Seth Naeve, (University of Minnesota), and Dr. Rachel Vann (North Carolina State University) will be discussing these topics during a Planting Considerations webinar on Friday, February 19 at 12:45-1:45 PM. Click here to register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/science-for-success-soybean-planting-considerations-tickets-140292814585?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=escb&utm-source=cp&utm-term=listing

Corn and Soybean School: Q and A on Corn Disease Management with Fungicides

On Feb 11, 2021, I gave a talk entitled “Management of Gibberella ear rot and Vomitoxin in Corn with Fungicides: Lessons Learned from Head Scab” as part of the 2021 Virtual Corn and Soybean School. I summarized years of fungicide efficacy research on head scab, a disease of wheat caused by the same fungus (Fusarium graminearum [Gibberella zeae]) that causes Gibberella ear rot (GER) in corn. Head scab and vomitoxin in wheat have been more widely studied than GER and vomitoxin in corn, as a result, a lot more is known about fungicide efficacy against scab/vomitoxin than against GER/vomitoxin. I therefore used lessons learned from head scab research, coupled with data from a limited number of GER fungicide efficacy studies to provide guideline on GER and vomitoxin management in corn. More than 220 people attended the 40-min-long program, asking questions covering various aspects of corn pathology. Below are more complete responses to several of these questions:

Q: How do you explain high vomitoxin levels in grain with no apparent ear rot observed?  Can drought stress alone be a culprit?

A: Infection of the ear, development of visual symptoms (ear rot), and contamination of grain with vomitoxin all depend on weather conditions during the weeks after silk emergence. Once the fungus enters the ear via the silks (infection) and begins to colonize the developing grain, it produces vomitoxin, even if subsequent weather conditions are not favorable for mold and ear rot to develop on the outside of the ear. This is particularly true if infections occur late and conditions become relatively dry and unfavorable for visual symptoms to develop.

Q: It looks like the triazoles are doing the work on VOM, more than strobies, is this correct?

A: Pulling from my years of experience with head scab and a limited number of fungicide efficacy studies on Gibberella ear rot and vomitoxin in corn, I would be more inclined to recommend a triazole than a strobilurin fungicide for Gibberella ear rot and vomitoxin control in corn. Miravis Neo (a combination fungicide of a triazole, an SDHI, and a strobilurin) also looks promising.

Q: Is there any relationship between using a strobilurin for vomitoxins in corn compared to what is found in wheat?

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Corn College and Soybean School

The Agronomic Crops Team will host a virtual Corn College and Soybean School on February 11, 2021. Corn College is in the morning, from 9:00 – 12:00pm, with Soybean School in the afternoon from 1:00-4:00pm. Each program will feature updates from OSU Specialists. CCA CEUs are available. The schedule for the day is as follows:

 

Corn College, 9:00am-12:00pm

  • Corn Management for 2021, Peter Thomison, 1.0 CM CCA CEUs
  • Meeting Nutrient Needs in Corn, Steve Culman, 1.0 NM CCA CEUs
  • Disease Management, Pierce Paul, 1.0 PM CCA CEUs
  • Insect Management, Andy Michel, 1.0 PM CCA CEUs

Soybean School, 1:00-4:00pm

  • Soybean Management for 2021, Laura Lindsey, 1.0 CM CCA CEUs
  • Weed Management, Mark Loux, 1.0 PM CCA CEUs
  • Disease Management, Anne Dorrance, 1.0 PM CCA CEUs
  • Insect Management, Kelley Tilmon, 1.0 PM CCA CEUs

This program is free to attend. Register at www.go.osu.edu/agronomyschools.

Ag Tech Tuesdays

The Ohio State Digital Ag Team’s Ag Tech Tuesday webinars are continuing this month! The online February series will cover results from several 2020 eFields trials and be held each Tuesday starting at 10:00 EST for 1 hour. There will be plenty of time for participants to ask questions.  The following provides details for the 2021 Ag Tech Tuesday sessions.

 

2021 AG TECH TUESDAY: EFIELDS RESULTS

  • February 2 – Improving Profitability in Corn Production

Weather and Climate Trends, Aaron Wilson

Irrigation, Amanda Douridas and Will Hamman

Corn Seeding Rates, Chris Zoller

SmartFirmer Seeding Rate, Elizabeth Hawkins

  • February 9 – Pushing Soybean Productivity in Ohio

Boots on the Ground, Laura Lindsey

Local Boots on the Ground Results, Mary Griffith

Foliar Fertilizer, James Morris

Soybean Seeding Rates, Ken Ford

Sulfur on Soybeans, John Barker

  • February 16 – Tech to Improve On-Farm Efficiency

Manure On-the-Go Sensing, Chris Shoup

Yield Monitor Data, Alysa Gauci

Virtual Reality and Field Demonstrations, Brooke Beam

Equipment Technology, Andrew Klopfenstein

  • February 23 – eFields Small Grains, Forages, Soil Health, and Water Quality Results

Production Budgets and Custom Rates, Barry Ward

Winter Annual Forages, Jason Hartschuh

Barley Cohort, Eric Richer

Hemp, Lee Beers

Soil Health Testing, Boden Fisher

Registration for Ag Tech Tuesdays is free but required.  Just visit go.osu.edu/AgTechTues to register.  If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Hawkins (hawkins.301@osu.edu

 

Updated Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations Now Available

After 25 years, the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Alfalfa has been comprehensively updated and is now available. The full version can be downloaded as a free pdf, or a printed copy can be purchased: https://extensionpubs.osu.edu/search.php?search_query=974&section=product

A summarized version of findings can be found here: go.osu.edu/fert-recs

The recommendations are based on more than a decade of field trials evaluating N, P, K, S and micronutrients, including over 300 on-farm trials across 41 Ohio counties. This work confirms that the original Tri-State recommendations provided sound guidelines for nutrient management. However, some changes in the recommendations have been made to keep pace with contemporary practices in Ohio’s field crops. This new guide provides an objective framework for farmers to manage nutrients as judiciously and profitably as possible.

Red counties reflect the Ohio counties where fertilizer trials were conducted (2014 – 2018).

Dicamba Approved for Over-the-Top Use 2021 and Beyond

Source: Agweb.com

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will approve three of the new dicamba formulations for over-the-top use for five years, according to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The herbicide is labeled for use in soybeans and cotton with the trait that confers tolerance to dicamba.

The specific formulations include Xtendimax VaporGrip Xtra, Engenia and Tavium. The registration starts next year (2021) and runs through 2025. The administrator said they opted for a five-year registration, which is typical for pesticides, instead of a two-year like dicamba has experienced in the past because they had more data to base this decision upon.

“EPA will register dicamba for over-the-top use on dicamba tolerant cotton and soybeans, this decision provides a five-year registration to provide certainty to growers,” Wheeler says. “EPA. has determined that these registrations address the concerns outlined in the June 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision.”

The administration said it reviewed 65 new studies when making this decision, reviewed all literature and consulted with experts before making this decision.

In approving the herbicide for use in cotton and soybeans, EPA provided the following changes to the herbicide labels. These changes, and all label instructions, must be followed for legal use:

  • Downwind buffer of 240′ is required and a buffer of 310′ required where listed species are located.
  • Over-the-top application of dicamba of soybeans prohibited nationwide after June 30, and after July 30 in cotton.
  • An approved pH buffering agent will be required to be mixed for application to lower volatility. Buffering agents are registered with the EPA and must be documented each use.
  • Opportunities for growers to use hooded sprayers to reduce buffers.
  • States can expand over-the-top use to meet local needs by working with EPA.

“All of these efforts will help ensure there are not negative impacts on other farmers’ lands,” Wheeler continued. “States can further restrict, but they have to work with us and file the appropriate requests with EPA. We’re trying to have a national program here, we’re responding the the court’s concerns with a national cutoff.”

Dicamba’s use was hotly contested earlier this year. An appeals court vacated the product’s use in early June, which was followed by an exemption for use of stocks on-hand for farmers by EPA. The announcement brough confusion and brought dicamba’s compliance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) under the microscope. EPA took those concerns into consideration while making this decision.

“The economic damage that would result from not being able to use dicamba herbicides would be tremendous,” said Ken Fountain, National Cotton Council chairman. “We greatly appreciate EPA’s timely issuance of a new five-year label for the critical crop protection product for cotton farmers.”

Some have already expressed concerns about EPA’s most recent announcement.

“Rather than evaluating the significant costs of dicamba drift as the 9th Circuit told them the law required, EPA rushed re-approval as a political prop just before the election, sentencing farmers and the environment to another five years of unacceptable damage,” said George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety. “Center for Food Safety will most certainly challenge these unlawful approvals.”

This story will be updated with quotes and information as it becomes available.