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February 5th, 2013 by sfp

The Numbers Are In: A Third Crop Pays Off

By Richard Alan, Public News Service – IA

February 4, 2013 – Des Moines, Iowa Traditionally, Iowa farmers have planted two crops, corn and soybeans.But farm owner Harn Soper discovered through his on-farm research that adding a third crop pays off big at harvest.

Soper has farms near Emmetsburg in Northwest Iowa, where he put nearly equal acreage into a conventional corn-soybean rotation and the rest into organic, planting a third cover crop in between. He said the numbers after harvest confirm that having a third crop makes a big difference in profits.

“We discovered, comparing 2011 and 2012, on the commercial farm ground versus the organic farm ground, our organic farm ground produced about a 30% higher net return,” Soper declared.

He said he sold organic corn for $12 a bushel and conventional corn for $7, with input costs of $120 an acre for organic and over $200 an acre for the commercial corn. Soper said he saved money by putting in a cover crop, which reduced the need for weed, pesticides and nitrogen.

“Year one, for example, we do oats and alfalfa together,” he explained. “In that first year we will harvest the oats, take one or two clippings of alfalfa, and then the second year we’ll plant corn.”

He said the cover crop crowded out weeds, and by plowing in the alfalfa it lessened the need for nitrogen. As well, it kept soil from eroding. Organic corn yielded an average of 170 bushels an acre, and the commercial corn yield was just over 200 bushels an acre, Soper reported.

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