The average cost for custom no-till planting in Iowa decreased by $0.50 in 2024, according to an annual survey from Iowa State University.

The Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey compiled more than 2,800 custom rates provided by 130 farmers, custom operators and farm managers.

2024 Custom No-Till & Drilling Rates

In 2024, no-tillers are charging anywhere from $13 to $42 per acre for custom no-tilling. The average charge is $26.60 per acre to no-till with a planter, compared to $27.10 in 2023. The median charge was $26 per acre, compared to $25 in 2023. No-tilling with splitters cost slightly more in 2024, averaging $27 per acre. The range for no-tilling with splitters was $18-35, and the median charge was $27.50. 

No-tilling soybeans with a drill costs an average of $21.40 per acre in 2024, a decrease from the 2023 average of $23.50 per acre. The range for drilling soybeans is $15-30 per acre. Drilling small grains averages $19.30 per acre, and drilling cover crops averages $19.90 per acre. Aerial seeding cover crops ranges from $11-18 per acre, with an average of $14.30 per acre.

Using technology while no-tilling adds extra costs. Farmers charge anywhere from $0.25 to $7 per acre to use seed shutoffs, with an average charge of $2.55 per acre. Variable-rate seeding averages $2.95 per acre but ranges from $0.50 to $7 for individual rates. GPS usage and analytics costs an average of $3 per acre, with a range from $0.50 to $7.

The survey shows the cost for pre-harvest operations decreased by 3.4% overall in 2024, compared to 2023. 

Custom Rates for Spraying, Fertilizer Application

The 2024 survey also included average rates for a variety of other custom services, including spraying, fertilizer application, manure spreading and tiling. 

Cornstalk chopping averages $13.80 per acre, down $1 from 2023, with individual respondents charging or paying anywhere from $8-20 per acre. 

Broadcast spraying, not incorporated, with a self-propelled sprayer costs an average of $8.35 per acre and ranges from $5-13.75 for individual rates. Using a self-propelled sprayer to broadcast spray tall crops costs an average of $10 per acre, with individual rates ranging from $7-16 per acre. Using a pull-type sprayer costs less, averaging $7 per acre when broadcast. Rates range from $6-8.50. Aerial spraying is the most costly option, averaging $10.70 per acre in 2024.

Dry bulk fertilizer application costs an average of $7.25 per acre. Liquid spraying costs $7.65 per acre on average, while sidedressing is $12.00 per acre. Injecting anhydrous with a toolbar averages $15.10 per acre, while injecting without a toolbar costs $13.25 per acre on average. Costs for spreading lime range from $5-12 per ton, with the average charge being $7.25 per ton. All prices are without materials included.

Injection of 1,000 gallons of liquid manure averages $16.65 per acre, while applying 1,000 gallons of liquid manure with a drag line costs $13.50 per acre on average. Loading solid manure ranges from $100-125 per hour, averaging $115. For tiling work (excluding materials), tiling with a tile plow costs $1.05 per foot.

Researchers caution that the survey results, which include ranges and other information for specific services, should only be used as a guide, and point out that actual custom rates can vary widely within the state of Iowa, let alone among various states.

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