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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Changing ag landscape in the spotlight at March 19 crop meeting in McIntosh

  • Last year’s rosy crop production economic model has changed. Gone are the high prices of our commonly grown commodity crops. Although lower feed prices are good news to the livestock producer, it creates a budget challenge for the crop producers.
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  •     Last year’s rosy crop production economic model has changed. Gone are the high prices of our commonly grown commodity crops. Although lower feed prices are good news to the livestock producer, it creates a budget challenge for the crop producers.   
        When crop prices are high, developing profitable crop budgets are easier. When prices drop, the producer has limited options to cash flow their production. The most common options are to try increase yields, reduce input costs or consider alternative crops.   
        Changing practices to increase yield is always a hopeful goal, but not always a realistic one. There is typically a host of equipment changes that can be made, variation in crop nutrition and a host of crop potions that promise increased yield.    
        But in most years, the weather is the biggest factor in yield attainment. All of the other options may help, but if the weather is unfavorable, all those options accomplish little more than to erode the bottom line.   
        Most of the costs incurred to grow a successful crop are not optional. Land costs, quality seed and most of the typical inputs are often inflexible. There may be a few things that can be varied, but how does one decide which to reduce or eliminate? Which input gives the biggest bang for the buck? How do we choose?   
        Growing another crop sounds like a good option, but depending on the crop, it may not be that easy nor may fit your production system. Indeed, trying to reduce costs may seem more palatable than considering a new crop. But luckily, we live in an area which affords several viable options economically unavailable in many other areas. Sunflowers, dry beans, canola, other small grains, and forage crops are viable options; all have an excellent ecological fit. Indeed, they all grow very well in our area but may not offer a meaningful financial incentive. Moreover, some of these may require additional equipment, may require additional marketing issues or may not fit your rotation or soil type. Yet, each of these may be worthy of further study.   
        Another seldom considered, but potential arrow for the quiver, is grass seed production. Although unfamiliar to most producers, it may be one worthy of further study. Grass seed, such as tall fescue or perennial ryegrass, are cool season grasses with production practices very similar to growing wheat. If you grow wheat, you can easily grow grass seed. Of course, as with any new crop, one needs to learn more about production practices, contracts and markets, potential yields and expenses, as well as any special equipment or storage needs.   
    Page 2 of 2 -     Soil drainage is silent yield robber. Although the past two years have been dry enough to reduce some crop yields, many typically lose more production to excess soil moisture, especially when it comes at the wrong time. Excessive rainfall without a crop cover increases soil erosion. With increasing amounts of tiling and surface drainage, soil erosion is a constant concern. One method to reduce soil erosion is the use of water and sediment control basins. These are typically constructed on the slope of a field or minor waterway to temporarily detain and release water through a piped outlet. Could this be something that would help keep topsoil in place on your farm? We are, after all, only the temporary caretakers of our topsoil and want to keep our land productive for future generations.   
        If you would like to learn more about these topics, the East Polk County Crop Improvement Association Annual Crop Meeting may interest you. This meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 19 at the McIntosh Community Center beginning at 9 a.m. and concluding at noon. Following the meeting, a delicious meal will be provided compliments of East Polk Crop Improvement Association, Fosston Tri Coop and Norfarm Seeds, Roseau, Minn.   
        The agenda for the day will feature: Dwight Aakre, NDSU Farm Management Specialist: Reducing Input Costs - Will it help the bottom line?” Katie Englemann, East Polk SWCD:  Soil Conservation: A Watershed Approach; and Ryan Dunham, Norfarm Seeds, Inc. Roseau MN, Tall Fescue Seed Production – Another Arrow for the Rotation Quiver? After lunch, the East Polk County Crop Improvement Association will hold a short annual meeting.   
        For more information on this or other upcoming meetings, contact me at 800-450-2465 or stordahl@umn.edu.
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