Cropping Systems

Published Feb 9, 2000

Jeff Klinge and Deb Tidwell, Farmersburg, have documented the economics of cropping as they transitioned to organic production. Jeff’s reports have appeared in these PFI annual publications, but in the past the “conventional” comparison came from his own farm. As he writes below, that was not possible for this soybean comparison. The figures in Table 9, click to view, come from 1998 because he didn’t sell the crop until recently. Jeff writes:

1998 was the first year that I ever grew soybeans. To do it organically made it more of a challenge. Despite problems with black nightshade and a 10% hail loss, things turned out quite well. I compared my organic soybeans to a neighboring farmer’s conventional beans because I do not have any conventional crops. I based this information on actual sales from 32.5 acres of organic soybeans which were not sold until June of 1999. That is why this material is a year behind. The conventional information came from actual sales from 110 acres.

Richard and Sharon Thompson, Boone, have kept close track of yields and farming operations for more than a decade. Dick has put this information together in a way designed to allow comparisons to other farming systems. Leaving out government price supports, and using local land rental rates and custom charges for the operations, he generates net profit for each crop in each year of his two crop rotations and for a hypothetical corn-soybean rotation that is representative of Boone County. This approach was described in “Can You Afford a Crop Rotation,” in The Practical Farmer, Vol. 11, #4, winter 1996-97.

As Figure 4 shows, when you take away the outside support, the Boone County corn-soybean rotation has not kept pace with the more diversified rotations on the Thompson farm. Dick is interested in seeing more producers learn to use this tool. He believes that over time it can be a way of tracking a farm’s progress toward its goals and to compare farming systems.