Avoiding the depreciation pitfall: Long-term crop rotation planning pays dividends

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Are you farming year-to-year, or looking five, 10, or even 20 years out?

Edgar Hammermeister, with Western Ag Professional Agronomy, says that solid, long-term crop planning is one key piece of the long-term viability puzzle of any farm, but one that often gets dropped when short-term economics or challenges arise. For Hammermeister, long-term crop planning is vital for farm profitability, pest management, and soil health.

It also plays a role in succession management. How, you ask? By increasing the likelihood of transferring a viable farm business to the next generation or extracting the highest value in a sale at retirement.

Being a little less flexible in the crop rotation plan actually adds flexibility in other aspects of agronomy, Hammermeister says. In sticking with a strong rotation and also alternating between a broadleaf and cereal crop, he’s able to keep the weeds off-balance, optimize yield potential, and maintain access to cheaper, off-patent weed control options for wild oat control, for example, keeping long-term cost of production numbers lower.

That’s not to say he doesn’t use more expensive or newer products, but by purposely taking the long view in weed and pest management, he can strategically use that extra level of control when warranted, while keeping overall costs down.

Sustainability and social responsibility are also key to the overall value of a farm business. Hammermeister says that most growers have likely noticed there’s language regarding sustainability practices making its way into grain contracts. He sees the shift at the farm level of these practices moving from maintaining social license to becoming a societal demand. “If we can emphasize and demonstrate [what we’re doing right], those demands stay minimal,” he says. More demands mean more bureaucracy, and more paperwork adds costs and removes the all-important flexibility.

Hammermeister says his agronomic philosophy is really about building up, rather than living off the depreciation of the farm — whether that be the depreciation of agronomic tools or more. It’s all about the long-term, he says.

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