Holding soybeans in hand

While some farmers might be jumping at the chance to make a bit of profit on the upswing in soybean prices, switching to soybeans for 2021 might help with input costs as well.

With recent price rallies, some farmers might be altering their plans a bit going into 2021.

Corn and soybeans have seen price jumps in the last month as demand optimism and supply concerns combine. Soybeans in particular have risen to multi-year highs, in the upper-$10 range in early October, which makes soybeans look more appealing to those farmers looking for a profit next year.

“There’s been a lot of questions about adding more beans to the rotation lately,” Norman Pottebaum, owner of Pottebaum Crop Services in Manchester, Iowa, said. “With the bean rally, I’m hearing more talk about it.”

While some farmers might be jumping at the chance to make a bit of profit, switching to soybeans for 2021 might help with input costs as well, said Josh Gunther, product lead at Burrus Seed in Jacksonville, Illinois.

With many farmers going corn-on-corn lately, corn rootworm is expected to be more prevalent this fall and moving into next spring. Gunther said switching to soybeans can be one of the more effective tools against the pest.

“Markets rebounding is always a good thing to see, but if we can lower input costs, that’s a wonderful thing to do,” he said.

“Track your corn rootworm pressure, and if you are rotating ground you should be good to go, but if you are corn following corn, I’d like to get extra protection.”

Pottebaum also noted corn rootworm as an issue in his area of Delaware County, as many of the fields tend to be planted corn on corn.

“We have a lot of continuous corn acres in Delaware County that haven’t been beans in 7, 10, heck, 15 years,” he said. “In those types of situations, beans could get you about a 10-20% yield bump on those acres. With today’s price points, that could be very profitable.”

However, choosing the right variety is also important to profitability.

Pottebaum noted the wide range of weather the past three years has made it difficult to plan for anything, from floods to droughts. However, he said certain traits have made a consistent impact in the more drought-like conditions.

“Pioneer has a product called AQUAMax, which is a marketing tool that says corn can get by with less water,” Pottebaum said. “I always joked the past three years that I hoped it would grow under water. But this year, the AQUAMax drought rating is legitimate. I do see a difference in the hybrids designed to handle a drier year. The biggest variable is still soil type.”

Deciding between multiple varieties can be a challenge. While some varieties are primed for high yields, if a year goes awry, it can flatten potential in a hurry. Pioneer field agronomist Ryan Van Roekel said companies are trying to resolve that uncertainty.

“Some of the best hybrids (in 2019) were the worst in 2020,” Van Roekel said. “We are trying to bring the floor up on hybrids and many are producing acceptable yields.”

For those looking to take a more budget-conscious approach, Van Roekel said there are options available. He suggested looking for early order discounts or program bundles that might help farmers save a few dollars.

“We do have lower-priced options and some tend to be older,” he said. “Many are consistent, which can be incredibly valuable to a farmer.”

Gunther said when looking ahead to 2021 seed choice, there has been some hesitation when it comes to dicamba- based products, with no label approved yet for the upcoming season.

That has led some farmers to hold off on making a decision for next year as they explore all their options.

Gunther said he expects more people to make a switch to Enlist products just to be on the safe side.

“Some are planning on continuing down that path,” Gunther said.

“With the recent approval of XtendFlex, that’s made some growers more confident in their system as they can hold out and wait for a dicamba label since they still have Liberty as a post.”

Gunther said the decision to continue playing it safe with this seed and program decision will help, as diversifying options may be the best bet for long-term returns.

“If we can keep things clean with residuals, we’ll be better off in the long run,” he said.