It is hard to make money with average yields

Average crops just don’t pay the bills, particularly if you apply inputs aiming to achieve above average yields.

That’s evident in the new Crop Planning Guide 2020 from Saskatchewan Agriculture, which has a two-pronged approach to yields this year. Its targeted crop yields represent the top 20 percent of five-year average yields for each crop in each soil zone. But the guide also shows crop returns based on average yields.

For feed barley, a price of $3.94 a bushel is assumed, but even with a yield of nearly 92 bu. an acre in the black soil zone, the crop doesn’t quite break even after total expenses are deducted. Provincial average yields are more than 20 bu. per acre lower, generating a loss of more than $90 an acre.

For malt barley, the assumed price is $4.70 a bu., but yields are lower. According to the Saskatchewan Agriculture analysis, malt barley losses are about $60 an acre at the high yield target. With an average yield, the loss is around $150 an acre, once all costs are considered.

While canola is an expensive crop to grow, there’s money to be made at the assumed price of $10.70 a bu. if you grow top yields in the 50 bu. per acre range. If, however, you spend heavily on inputs and grow only 35 to 42 bu. per acre, depending upon soil zone, you’ll lose $35 to $55 an acre.

The top 20 percent of flax yields are 30 to 34 bu. an acre depending on soil zone. With an assumed flax price of $13.78 an acre, flax shows a profit of $85 to $108 an acre. However, average flax yields are only 20 to 23 bu. per acre and that generates losses of $33 to $74 an acre.

Both red lentils (20 cents per pound) and large green lentils (25 cents per lb.) are profitable at high yields and money losers with average yields.

With an assumed price of $3.02 per bu., oats are profitable in the black soil zone at the high yield scenario of 139 bu. per acre. In the dark brown soil zone, the high yield is about 104 bu., dropping the crop to around breakeven. At average yields, 100 bu. in the black soil zone and 66 bu. an acre in the dark brown, the crop is a money loser.

On green peas, the assumed price is $12.13 a bu., which may be unrealistically high if acres expand this year. At that price, green peas are highly profitable at the high yield levels reaching a return over total expenses of $293 an acre in the black soil zone. With average yields, green peas are profitable in the black and dark brown soil zones and just under breakeven in the brown.

Yellow peas at $6.85 a bu. come close to breakeven at high yields in the black soil zone, but lose money in every other scenario.

At an assumed price of $10.66 a bu., there’s no money to be made with soybeans even with a high yield expectation.

Durum at $6.61 a bu. only makes money under high yield expectations. Spring wheat at $6.42 a bu. and high yields make about $24 an acre in the black soil zone and less than $6 in the dark brown. It’s a loser in the brown soil zone.

Producers should do their own calculations, with their own costs, yields and price assumptions, but the Crop Planning Guide 2020 is a great resource.

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