From Agronomists of the
Potash & Phosphate Institute
655 Engineering Drive, Suite 110
Norcross, Georgia 30092-2837
Phone (770) 447-0335

Spring 2002, No. 3


Spend money to make money...right? Absolutely. After all, farming is an investment and obtaining a return on that investment is what it’s all about. Just like the stock market, the goal is to invest wisely. So how do we invest wisely in farming? Invest in higher yields.

Profit is the difference between the total return from sale of the crop and the costs, both fixed and variable, of producing that crop. It is what is left over after all the bills are paid. If nothing is left over, there is no profit. Think of total return as a pie and costs as slices taken from that pie. Higher yield gives a bigger pie to work with and greater opportunity for more leftovers, i.e. profits.

Total return is the product of yield and price. Some years prices are excellent, but some years they are not so good. The question is, what can growers do to increase total returns? Unfortunately, they seldom have much say about price. Market factors such as supply and demand, price supports, and general state of the economy basically determine crop price. Price may be influenced by quality, but within a specific grade, it is, as previously stated, out of the growers’ hands in most situations.

Yield level can significantly influence total return. The greater the yield, the greater the potential total return. This is the area where growers can dramatically make a difference and why best management practices (BMPs) are so important.

Best management practices are those practices aimed at optimizing yield. Some improved practices require more cost, such as additional fertilizer or additional irrigation water to reach a higher yield goal. Others cost no more or little more than previous practices. Examples of low cost inputs are selecting improved seed and planting to a higher plant population. Good management decisions are no cost inputs that can significantly increase yield. For example, changing the planting date to a more optimum time for a specific variety or adjusting equipment for more precise and uniform application of fertilizer are no cost inputs.

High yields obtained through best management practices have additional benefits beyond more profit. They also protect the environment because:

• Efficiency of inputs such as fertilizer and crop protectants is increased.

• Earlier ground cover is achieved which decreases erosion hazard.

• More crop residue is produced, which increases water infiltration. Erosion hazard is also reduced.

• Greater root development also reduces erosion potential.

• More yield per acre increases the opportunity to idle fragile acres.

High yield management involves careful investment of inputs. Done properly, the return can be substantial. If not, potential profit is lost, and risk is actually increased because all controllable inputs are not being properly managed...some are being left to chance. There will always be risk involved in farming from factors beyond our control. But let’s be sure to minimize risk by managing those factors that are, in fact, manageable.

High yields are important in all economies...with best management practices.

— AEL—

For more information, contact Dr. Albert E. Ludwick, Western Director, PPI, P.O. Box 970, Bodega Bay, CA 94923. Phone: (707) 875-2163. E-mail:
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