Prices Make Burn-down Cover Crops Passé

Nor' east Thinkin'

Take a hard look at harvestable cover crop alternatives befor this fall

Published on: May 12, 2011


It must be the "old farmer" still in me: I hate to see farmers seeding the land during fall, only to burn down a decent cereal crop stand with herbicide in early spring.

Maryland farmers get paid well for it, and that helps. But in these peak commodity price times, how can you economically justify not harvesting a valuable grain or silage crop from that cover crop land?

That's the issue you must wrestle with before you finish fall harvest.
Before then, you'll really need to pencil out the dollars you burn down and turn down. So, now's the time to start strategizing next year's crop management scenario. Barley, rye, oats and wheat, at the very least, have silage feed value.

Record revenues still are hanging in the grain futures markets, like plums to be picked. Today’s grain crops are worth at last double what they were a year ago. As of early May, Chicago Board of Trade was still carrying May 2012 wheat futures at well above $9 a bushel and July oats at more than $3.75.

Even today, wheat forward-pricing contracts push double-cropping to a serious, well-paying strategy. And, it spreads out and reduces yield risks.

Dairies in at least the lower half of the Northeast, for instance, can capitalize on cereal crop silage.  And, with the right crop, they can still get corn silage planted in plenty of time for ear-fill.

In all probability, grain crop values won’t be this high next year at this time. High prices will once again cure themselves with high production. But right now, you can lock in very respectable prices on 2012 crops.

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