As you finalize your 2018 crop budgets, don’t neglect to factor in surprises. Midseason expenses such as seed costs for replanted acres and rescue fungicides can derail your financial outlook before the crop really takes off.
Budgets are not stagnate documents, says David Widmar, an economist with Agricultural Economic Insights.
“We are making projections and our projections are as of today,” he explains. “When we start actually putting seed down, once we start actually applying herbicide or buying fertilizer, there’s always a difference. We need to update that budget through the growing season and always know where we are and how each decision impacts cost of production as we move forward.”
Not only should rescue treatments make sense within the realm of a budget, but also consider the impact they have on cash flow needs, Widmar says.
“I think it’s helpful to think about what might be the best-case scenario for response, what the expected response would be and what might be a low-case response,” he explains, recognizing farmers rarely know how beneficial a midseason treatment will be. “Then producers have to think about if the range of potential outcomes out-weigh the costs.”
Beyond the hard cash costs, producers need to budget adequate time for scouting to catch in-season issues, advises Steve Hoffman, president and managing agronomist for InDepth Agronomy.
“Time is money,” he says. “Often, the actual cost for things like weed and disease control are dependent on how early you found the problem.”
Costs to Watch
Estimate costs for these five production decisions before heading to the field, suggests Steve Hoffman, president of InDepth Agronomy.
1. Replanting: It’s the last thing you want to think about at this point in the season, but some portions of early planted fields might need to be replanted. “Germinating seeds subjected to cold, wet conditions often merit replanting,” Hoffman says. “Somebody needs to take the time to look for the problem because the earlier it’s found the less loss the farmer will face.”
2. Herbicide: It’s best to control resistant weeds such as waterhemp and palmer amaranth when they are small and easier to kill. If fields don’t receive adequate rain early in the growing season, pre-emergence herbicides might not activate.
3. Nitrogen loss: Wet conditions early in the season can cause nitrogen loss, creating the need for a rescue application. Depending on the severity of the problem, an additional nitrogen application can cost $35 to $45 per acre, Hoffman says.
4. Fungicide: Be sure to scout corn prior to tasseling to catch disease issues before the application window passes you by. If a problem exists, consider one of the several reasonably priced fungicide options on the market, Hoffman says.
5. Insecticide: Under heavy pressure, even BT corn is susceptible to cutworm damage. “It only takes 3% of plants being cut to merit treatment,” Hoffman says.
Note: This story appears in the April 2018 magazine issue of Dairy Herd Management.