If you live in the southern half of Indiana, primarily south of Interstate 70, recent runaway prices for wheat are likely grabbing your attention. If you live in northern Indiana, they be noteworthy, but a wheat budget, even at $5.50 wheat, 80 bushels per acre, and 50 bales of straw sold out of the field might not match up to 180 bushels of corn at $3.50 per bushel. It all depends upon how rising input costs, more of an issue in corn, and your confidence in your ability to raise one crop vs. the other shakes out.
South of I-70, there's another player on the table. It's doublecrop soybeans. While '07 wasn't a year for them to shine, especially closer to I-70 or in any area where it was dry, sharp budget analysts know that '08 may be nothing like '07. In many areas, no one can remember soybeans being cut for hay. That was their original use when the crop was introduced into the U.S., but most of the farmers in the generation that did that are no longer farming. Many doublecrop acres were made into hay recently when it appeared that the lack of August and early September rain would mean few, if any, bushels per acre if the crop was left to stand. Recent rains may revive some of them, but only time will tell.
Marvin Swearingin, former Purdue University agronomist who specialized in soybean and wheat production, did much of the early research on doublecrop soybeans, primarily in southern Indiana. He's now retired, but some of his philosophy still applies. He told farmers that if you could produce 100 bushels per acre between the two crops, then doublecrop soybeans after wheat should be a winning combination in areas where doublecrops fit.
Consider 70 bushel wheat at $5.50 per bushel and 30 bushel soybeans at $8.50 per bushel. That's a gross of $630 per acre. A 200 bushel corn crop at $3.50 produces $700 per acre. But the rub comes in budgets. Corn seed prices are expected to be up next year, plus nitrogen prices. Wheat also requires nitrogen, but generally not at as high of rates as for corn. And if your land that can produce 70 bushel wheat and 30 bushel soybeans following it produces closer to 170 bushels of corn on average, then revenue from the doublecrop mix becomes an instant winner.
Farmers will want to budget closely, says Chris Hurt, Purdue ag economist. And they will need to do it soon. For top yields, wheat will need to go into the ground within the next two to four weeks, says Chuck Mansfield, Purdue agronomist based at Vincennes. Seed shortage could become an issue, according to some unconfirmed reports.