No-Tillers Walk a Fine Line on Earnings

Boosted by record corn yields, no-tillers eked out slightly better profits in 2017 despite higher expenditures for land rent, crop protection, equipment.

Being “better than average” on a consistent basis usually leads to success. In the 2017 world of farm economics, it took something extra special for no-tillers to finish in the black.

In an agricultural economy that’s currently walking a fine line, that extra special was record-setting corn yields.

Those corn yields appeared to give the 497 No-Till Farmer readers participating in our 10th annual No-Till Operational Benchmark Study just enough of what they needed to stay profitable as a group.

At an average yield of 181.3 bushels per acre, no-tillers beat the previous year’s mark of 170.8 bushels by 10.5 bushels (6.1%). Having more corn to sell was critical for several reasons:

  • Average corn prices in 2017 were 10 cents less than the prior year.
  • Soybeans didn’t contribute to the pocketbook quite as well as corn, since average yields of 54.8 bushels per acre lagged behind 2016 average yields of 57.5 bushels.
  • After making deep cuts to operating expenses at a rate of $75.80 per acre in 2016, no-tillers found it difficult to hold the same line on costs. Expenses rose from $319.41 per acre to $344.73 in 2017, an increase of $25.32, or 7.9%.

More Flat Net Incomes

For the past 3 years, the number of no-tillers reporting profits, losses or flat bottom lines has been relatively unchanged. For 2017, there was a minor shift in no-tillers reporting profits and losses to no-tillers saying they broke even. (See Table 1.)

Some 68% of no-tillers said they were…

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Darrell Bruggink

Executive Editor/Publisher

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