With ever-rising farm machinery costs, the squeeze is certainly on farmers to come up with new ways to cut their investment in tractors, implements and combines.
If a farmer is willing to move less tillage, he can definitely make a substantial reduction in the dollar amount of equipment that he needs to farm.
Yet there’s considerable more savings for the farmer willing to give no-till a try than for the farmer who prefers minimum tillage over conventional tillage. As was the case in the two earlier articles in this series — which looked at fuel and labor costs — there’s much more of a case today for saving money on machinery than 15 years ago.
The Difference Widens
Back in 1965, a farmer could cut his farm machinery investment from the $34,595 needed to grow 400 acres of corn the conventional way to $32,506 with minimum tillage and to $19,268 with no-tillage. (All machinery costs in this article are based on buying all-new machinery in each of the 15 years shown above in our chart.)
The difference in farm-machinery needs between the three tillage systems has widened considerably during the past 15 years. In 1980, a farmer would need $139,337 worth of machinery to conventionally farm 400 acres of corn. This would drop to $127,637 worth of machinery to minimum till, or to $88,117 for no-till.
So you can readily see how the rapidly increasing price of farm machinery continues to make no-tillage look like a better bet all the time. It has to look especially good to young farmers just getting started who don’t already have a sizeable inventory of high-priced farm machinery.
Saving A Buck
By looking at the center area between our two charts, you can compare how both no-till and minimum tillage have enabled farmers to reduce their farm machinery investment during each of the past 15 years.
Looking at these farm machinery cost savings on a per-acre basis, you could have saved $37.42 per acre by moving from conventional tillage to no-till back in 1965. Making a shift to minimum tillage from conventional tillage would have saved $5.22 per acre 15 years ago.
In 1980, the shift to no-tillage would be worth $128.05 per acre compared with $29.25 per acre for shifting to minimum tillage from conventional. The conventional-tillage machinery investment is based on the same 11 trips across the field that we used in our fuel- and labor-comparison articles.
The minimum-tillage figures are based on the same eight trips across the field, while the no-tillage machinery-investment figures are based on the same five trips across the field — fertilize, chop stalks, plant, spray and harvest — that were used in the earlier articles.
So if you’re looking at farm machinery investments, this is a good time to check out the benefits of no-till.