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Published January 03, 2012, 10:39 AM

Comparing crops: NDSU spreadsheet program studies potential profits

The North Dakota State University Extension Service’s popular Crop Compare program is back for its sixth year.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

The North Dakota State University Extension Service’s popular Crop Compare program is back for its sixth year.

The program’s core is a spreadsheet that allows farmers in different regions of the state to compare potential profits from various crops. Producers pick a reference crop and an expected market price for it; the program then provides the market price for competing crops that gives them the same profit potential as the reference crop.

An example: A farmer in south-central North Dakota uses spring wheat as the reference crop. The farmer projects a yield of 35 bushels per acre, a sales price of $7.20 per bushel and a return over variable costs (expenses such as seed and fertilizer) of $97.53 per acre.

To receive the same projected return on soybeans, the producer would need a projected yield of 26 bushels per acre and a projected sales price of $9.32 per bushel.

Those numbers can help a south-central North Dakota farmer who’s evaluating whether to plant wheat or soybeans on a given field this spring.

The program allows farmers and other users to alter the projected yields, prices and variable costs. Producers should use the projected yield that best reflects their own individual situation, says Andy Swenson, NDSU Extension Service farm management specialist.

Input prices and grain prices can fluctuate greatly, so the ability to alter them in the program until final planting decisions are made this spring is a big plus, Swenson says.

The program doesn’t include fixed costs such as machinery and land. However, people who use the program should take into account that extra time, labor and risk can be associated with some crops, Swenson says.

The program — available online at www.ag.ndsu.

edu/farmmanagement/tools — is intended primarily for North Dakota producers, but also can be used by farmers in adjacent counties in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana.

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