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

Spring 2000, No. 5


Maintaining a profitable grain crop production system has been a challenge over the past couple of years with depressed market prices. Weather problems have dealt a double blow to some farmers. Those who have worked to develop high yield systems have been better able to survive the economic and weather stresses. Sound agronomic management leads to better profits regardless of the market price. Prices rise and fall, weather patterns change, but the farmer who focuses on building and implementing an agronomic plan for maintaining high yields is on the best course for a sustainable production system.

Managing for high yields is the farmers’ best strategy to maximize profits. Farmers have little control over the forces impacting the market, but having more grain to sell at whatever the price gives them the best chance to make a profit. Higher yields in the aggregate may have a depressing effect on grain markets, but an individual farmer must constantly work toward higher yields to maximize profits.

A successful high-yield management system should be based on a realistic yield goal…probably a yield that can be met or exceeded one or two years out of five. That provides a challenge without unreasonable risk. Components of a high yield system are based on experience and common sense and an awareness of relevant research and technology developments. The first step is cataloging available resources. Knowing the yield potential of the soil types on the farm, and especially any limitations they have, is a good place to start. Study the soil survey information available from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Review past yield records for each field on the farm and any information available from neighboring farms. Build a plan to make the best use of the physical, financial, and management resources available. Then implement the plan, monitor the results, and refine the system. The commitment to plan, implement, review, and refine is essential to a successful high-yield management system.

Many farmers have a growing database of geographically-referenced information that provides specific insight into the limitations and potentials for each field. Studying these databases and making sound agronomic interpretation of them can give new insight into opportunities to increase yield. Adjustments in management systems may be possible by reallocating resources without substantial increases in input costs. Fine-tuning management plans based on available on-farm data may provide the best opportunity for farmers in the future to maintain a profitable crop production system.

Having a high-yield system in place provides the greatest flexibility in dealing with low crop prices. It reduces the risk if you need to cut back on some inputs for one season. If exceptionally good growing conditions prevail, the system is able to function at full capacity. When poor conditions are encountered, the components of a high yield system will also provide the best opportunity to reduce losses. Planning for a good year is the best way to ensure one–if you take action to implement that plan.


For more information, contact Dr. Harold F. Reetz, Jr., Midwest Director, PPI, 111 E. Washington Street, Monticello, IL 61856-8203. Phone: (217) 762-2074. E-mail:
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