With today’s soybean yield expectations, will planting some fields back to soybeans be more profitable than planting a field back to corn? Just might be so!

Is 2016 the year to grow more soybeans in rotation? Perhaps go back to a fifty-fifty corn soybean rotation or actually plant soybeans back into a field after a previous soybean crop?

Emerson Nafziger, agronomist at the University of Illinois, stated in a webinar hosted by ILSoyAdvisor on December 1 that the corn-to-soybean yield ratio has been narrowing, moving closer to 3 to 1. At this ratio, growing soybeans is as profitable as growing corn. You may recall that for a long time the ratio was 3 to 1, but during the last 15 years corn yield gains outpaced soybean yield gains. In the last 5 years, soybean yields have caught back up as growers have realized that soybeans do have the potential to yield.

Today growing continuous soybeans isn’t as big a risk as we thought in the past. The three key tips include: select the right field with well-drained soils that produce high-yield soybeans, select a variety with good disease resistance and seedling vigor, and treat the seed with a complete fungicide package. Then use the same best management practices that you use on soybeans planted after corn.

And the risk of yield drag is much smaller than we think. According to Nafziger it is only 4 or 5% on average if you select the right field. So maybe a loss of 5% yield is more than offset by the savings in production expenses compared to corn.

Greg Anderson, a farmer from Newman Grove in northeast Nebraska, doesn’t believe there is a continuous soybean penalty, as his yields keep increasing and are better than county and state averages. He emphasizes the benefits, stating there is less grain to haul, no drying and fewer inputs to purchase. “The system is not going to gross the same as corn, but there is less expense and it is profitable.”

Anderson lists how he directly saves money in this rotation.

  • No dryer and drying costs that are associated with corn
  • Less grain to haul since yields are smaller, about one-third of the volume
  • Less labor required at harvesting
  • Doesn’t need a corn head
  • Can reduce investment in planters; a good drill with soybean meters works fine
  • Lower seed cost per acre
  • Less input costs in fertilizer and chemicals commonly applied to corn

In addition, he doesn’t have to manage cornstalks or handle the extra residue association with corn so no-tilling works better, resulting in a good stand.

You can do the math yourself. The loss of 3 bushels or $27 is more than offset by the potential reduction in production costs outlined above.

Agronomist Dr. Daniel Davidson posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at djdavidson@agwrite.com or leave a comment below.


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About the Author: Dan Davidson

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on topics related to soybean agronomy. Feel free to contact him at djdavidson@agwrite.com or ring him at 402-649-5919.