UNL Extension Offers Resources to Manage High Input Costs in Crop Production

UNL Extension Offers Resources to Manage High Input Costs in Crop Production

January 20, 2009

With input costs for the 2009 crop production season projected to be significantly higher than in recent years, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension has resources to help.

Also see:

New Web Sites to Help Crop and Livestock Producers Surive High Input Costs, a Market Journal segment (11:38)

Manage High Input Costs, an Ag Almanac segment (9:31)

UNL's Surviving High Input Costs in Crop Production Web page offers Nebraska crop producers timely information to curb increasing costs and improve profit margins. Input costs, such as fuel, fertilizer, seed and land all have influenced crop production costs, said Tom Dorn, UNL Extension Educator in Lancaster County.

"In the last five years, the cost of off-road diesel fuel shot up from $1.30 to $3.50 per gallon, a cost increase of 269 percent," Dorn said. "The fuel cost to run a moderately sized, 130 horsepower, tractor increased from $7.41 to $19.95 per hour. The fuel cost to operate a 275 horsepower combine went from $15.73 to $42.35 per hour in the same time period."

More than 40 crop production budgets are available on the Web site. Total costs for field operations and purchased materials are estimated at $336 per acre for dryland corn in west central Nebraska with 100 bushel per acre anticipated yield — a breakeven of $3.36 per bushel, and $562 per acre for center pivot irrigated corn following soybeans with a yield of 205 bushels per acre — a breakeven of $2.96 per bushel based on prices used, Dorn said.

The UNL Extension initiative targets all major crops produced in Nebraska.

Dorn and Gary Hergert, UNL nutrient management and soil quality specialist, lead the team of UNL Extension specialists and crop production educators who have posted recommendations that will help producers take measures to reduce input costs. Information has been online since October.

"This series of timely tips can help producers improve profitability in times of rapidly increasing costs and uncertain crop prices," Hergert said. "It really is in keeping with Extension's slogan of Know How. Know Now."

The site will continuously be updated, so check back for new topics in the areas of grain storage and handling, crop systems, production management, machinery management, irrigation, pest management and soil fertility and marketing. Video and audio stories also are available for many of the topics.

Current topics on the Web site include:

  • Cropping Systems: Research-based benefits of skip-row, no-till and controlled wheel traffic; savings from eliminating one field operation; value of crop residue;
  • Machinery Management: Advantages and disadvantages of joint ownership, leasing and buying of farm equipment; what to look for in a contract;
  • Production Management: Value of setting realistic yield goals;
  • Irrigation Management: New tools to fine-tune irrigation management; savings from winter repair of leaky gates, gaskets, and pumping plants, using a cutoff ratio to save with furrow irrigation;
  • Pest Management: Using resistant soybean varieties to reduce fungicide applications; combating foliar diseases of wheat; using generic herbicides; using IPM strategies;
  • Soil Fertility: Using manure resources; providing proper nutrient credit for soil organic matter, manure, nitrate nitrogen and legumes; eliminating unnecessary phosphorus, potassium and sulfur fertilizers; and
  • Harvest and Storage: Tips for saving time, energy and money when drying grain on-farm; drying grain in layers; optimizing high speed, high capacity dryers; harvesting soybeans at 13 percent moisture.

In addition, these topics are being discussed at UNL Extension crop meetings this winter.

Topics also will continue to be featured on UNL's "Market Journal" program and CropWatch Web site. For more information on "Market Journal" visit http://marketjournal.unl.edu/.

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service