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Lower wheat prices lead to changes in 2017 crop rotation

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Growing wheat with intensive management techniques has yielded a lot of positive feedback from farmers, some of which have seen some of the highest yield numbers in years on their land.

The number of acres devoted to wheat are expected to be down again this year, but Mark Torno, WinField United diverse crops marketing manager, believes this acre reduction may open opportunities for other crops.

“With wheat, it’s a struggle,” said Torno. “When you look at low yielding wheat and the prices that are currently out there, some guys are looking at other options. Wheat is a crop we’ve grown for quite a while and I think at the end of the day we’re going to continue to grow wheat, but there are some other crops that I see growers looking toward.”

Based on input Torno has received from his colleagues and farmers throughout the region, soybeans and corn are the two major crops that look to benefit most from a reduction in wheat acres with soybeans providing possibly the greatest upside potential.

“Those two kind of stand out as stronger on acreage,” he said. “There are also some minor crops that people are looking toward – canola being one of the higher ones and sunflowers to follow that. Both are oilseed crops and both have been successful the last couple years.”

Torno noted sunflowers are a bit dependent on geography, as a couple areas this past year had some struggles. However, other regions saw maybe their best sunflower yields in years.

“Sunflowers have some variance,” he said. “In South Dakota, some farmers were hitting 3,000 (pounds per acre) plus yields.”

Canola on the other hand has been strong over the last couple years, and there is interest in the crop this year, according to Torno.

“If you’re reducing your wheat acreage and increasing corn, soybeans or even sunflowers, you’re pushing your workload further into the season. That can be more strain on equipment and labor, which is helping canola – an early season crop. It can easily be added into a cropping system.”

Intensive wheat management

Torno has done a lot of work in the past handful of years when it comes to intensive wheat management techniques, and he’s heard a lot of positive feedback from farmers.

“A lot of farmers come back to us and tell us it works,” he said. “A lot of those guys are using a system approach and getting some of the highest yields with wheat that they’ve seen on the farm in years.”

Even with market prices where they’re at, Torno said farmers have communicated with him that getting a strong wheat yield can really make things pencil out.

“With intensive management, many farmers start off with maybe a quarter of their wheat acres. The following year maybe they’ll go half. Then they start moving toward all of them. One farmer that sticks out in my mind up in Berthold, N.D., he got a good 10 bushels plus (per acre) better using (an intensive management system) compared to a more traditional operation.”

National Wheat Yield Contest

As part of the U.S. Wheat Foundation, Torno said one of the group’s initiatives is the National Wheat Yield Contest, sponsored and funded by WinField, Monsanto, John Deere and BASF, that encourages wheat farmers to think about wheat using a new perspective.

“We want them thinking in a different way, or in a curious fashion,” he said. “What could be that one thing that makes a difference? Sulfur? Seeding rates? What if I tried this? We’ve seen a lot of success in that.”

The contest is divided into two divisions for winter and spring wheat with subcategories for dryland and irrigated operations in each division, respectively. Any wheat grower 14 years old and up and a member of a state wheat grower organization or National Association of Wheat Growers is eligible to participate in the contest.

For the subcategory of dryland hard red spring wheat, first place was awarded to Kent Pfaff in Washburn, N.D., who grew Cropland 3530.

“He had 104.3 bushel and when people have success like that, it’s kind of fun. He felt he was more profitable. Even if he had to spend more money to get there with an intensive approach, he felt he still came ahead financially,” said Torno.

For more information on the National Wheat Yield Contest, please visit

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