What should be charged for custom wheat harvest, soybean planting?

What should be charged for custom wheat harvest, soybean planting?

Consider custom harvesting wheat and custom planting soybeans behind it to reach full soybean yield potential. Custom planting costs for soybeans range from $13 acre (just to cover costs) to $16- $18 acre (custom no-till planting per custom rate guides).

With wheat harvest comes the planting of double crop soybeans. Timeliness of planting is always critical. It seems our planting window narrows when planting soybeans behind wheat. Custom harvesting or planting could be good options.

Just a month ago, it looked like the wheat crop in Tennessee was a week to two weeks behind average. However, in that time period it has caught up and now looks to be on track. Harvest has started south of Tennessee, but will probably be more in the second to third week in June before combining starts in earnest in the state. In Tennessee, soybeans planted after June 20 suffer a drop in yield potential.

Last year was an exception, where double crop soybeans yielded very well. This depends on how the production year unfolds from planting to harvest. Nevertheless, planting double crop soybeans before June 15 is usually critical for maximizing yield potential. This is also generally when time demands for other crops, particularly cotton start increasing.

For 2014, Tennessee is projected to have planted 560,000 acres, down only 8 percent from 2013. Surrounding states cut their acreage a little more with Kentucky down 11 percent, North Carolina down 16 percent, Virginia down 9 percent, Georgia down 33 percent, Alabama down 23 percent, Mississippi down 42 percent, Arkansas down 35 percent, and Missouri down 14 percent.

Producers with wheat acreage will face the task of getting the wheat harvested and soybeans planted back on a timely basis for maximum yield potential. It seems like we hardly ever have perfect weather to accomplish the task and it remains to be seen how this year will be.

To get double crop soybeans planted as timely as possible, consider:

  1. Having wheat custom combined.
  2. Having double crop soybeans custom planted. It is interesting to note that several producers with storage and grain drying capability have looked at harvesting wheat at higher moisture to facilitate early planting of double-crop soybeans. The University of Kentucky has some good information on this practice in their Kentucky Small Grains Manual.

Custom harvest and planting costs

First, the wheat will have to be combined before soybeans can be planted. Based on the assumptions in the 2014 University of Tennessee Extension budgets, the variable & fixed cost for combining is $36.17 acre. A grain cart adds $5.72 an acre or about $42 an acre for both. These are just a basic estimate as an individual producer’s hours of use for combining can greatly affect the cost.

Custom rate guides from Tennessee and Kentucky lists an average for combining small grains as $35 acre. This includes a charge of $6 per acre for the use of a grain cart in the Kentucky guide while Tennessee’s charge is not broken out and is assumed to be included. Using GPS and yield mapping would add another roughly $3 acre for a total of $38 acre. At current soybean prices, this would cost a little over 3 bushels of soybeans to possibly expedite wheat harvest to allow quicker planting of double crop soybeans.

Second, should soybeans be custom planted. Custom planting costs for soybeans range from $13 acre (just to cover costs) to $16- $18 acre (custom no-till planting per custom rate guides). Variable rate or automatic seed shut offs would add $2-$3 per acre. At current prices, the custom rate is around 1.5 bushels of soybeans.

Most producers don’t enjoy paying for custom services that they have the equipment and can perform themselves. Sometimes though, we have to look at the big picture. In this case, the question to ask is what is the most efficient and profitable practice for the farm operation. If it is having some custom operations done to enhance the timeliness of either harvest or planting then it should be considered as a cost effective way to accomplish the goal.

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