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Budget; plan ahead and ensure success

October 2021


Another season is upon us and finalisation of the planning for the planting of the coming crops and budgets for the 2021/2022 sunflower and soybean production season should be completed this month.

The recently harvested crops would have been assessed for success or failure and any lessons learned to improve yields or quality can be used for current planning. In this article we look at some production considerations for each crop, each input cost and estimated budgets.

Future prices in March 2022 for soybeans are at R7 837/t and for sunflowers R9 050/t. Using the Safex differential a transport at R300/t this gives a net sunflower price of R8 750. 

The newer cultivars of sunflowers are yielding well with many farmers achieving a 2 t/ha average giving a gross income of R17 500/ha. An average of 2,23 t/ha of soybeans would have to be harvested to be equal to the sunflower income. This level of income compared to the current input costs looks attractive for either crop. Calculate your probable income from last season’s results and long-term records.

To spread the planting period both crops can be incorporated into a maize, soybean, sunflower, other crops or pastures rotation system. Soybean yields were disappointing in some areas due to the high rainfall and heavy cloud cover experienced.

Sunflowers are an easier crop to manage for beginner farmers and less susceptible to yield loss due to extreme weather patterns. If you are unsure about producing soybeans rather plant sunflower instead.

Soybean production requires experience or good advice and the emphasis on proper land preparation, planting your crop on time and especially the right application methods of the nitrogen fixing rhizobia microbes to the seed. Spraying on the seed at planting from a planter mounted tank and pump system is highly recommended. Otherwise inoculate your seed per bag in the shade just prior to planting. Buy your inoculant from a reliable and well-known source. Effective nodulation is the key to higher yields. Farmers using their own seed from the previous crop are at a high risk of realising lower yields than those properly graded and cleaned by a commercial supplier.

Soybeans with early, medium and late maturity must be planted before the recommended dates. Make sure that you have extra sunflower seed in stock that can still be planted with good results during December should circumstances prevent planting soybeans on time.

Always get professional advice and quotes from suppliers for the specific inputs required for the conditions found on your farm and the targeted yields to be realised.

Seed: Plant 40 000 plants per hectare, trace element and anti-fungicide treated seeds, from a proper commercial source, for a final plant population of around 35 000 plants per hectare (R650/ha).
Fertiliser: Plant with a 4:1:1 (30) plus zinc or similar mixture or per fertiliser recommendation Do not be short on nitrogen. Allow about 25 kg of nitrogen content per ton of targeted yield per hectare (R1 800/ha).


  • Weed control for your specific problem weeds (R1 200/ha).
  • Diesel: 70 litres/ha (R1 250/ha).
  • Crop insurance: 3,5% of income (R620/ha).
  • Harvesting: Combining contractor or own machine (R750/ha).
  • Marketing and transport: (R400/ha).
  • Other costs: R1 000/ha.

Total cost per hectare for the above will be R7 670 giving a margin of R9 830/ha which will be available to cover your fixed overheads.

Seed: Plan for a plant population of 300 000 plants per hectare. You should have a minimum of 250 000 plants per hectare after emergence. Buy treated seed with the required trace elements such as molybdenum and others (R1 700/ha).
Seed inoculants: Rhizobium and root growth enhancers (R400/ha).
Fertiliser: Plant with a 2:3:4 (30) + zinc and sulphur or similar mixture as soybeans need more potassium (R1 500/ha).

  • R1 000 diesel: R1,250/ha.
  • Crop insurance 7% of income: R1 240/ha.
  • Harvesting: R1 200/ha.
  • Marketing and transport: R500/ha.
  • Other costs: R1 000/ha.

Total cost estimate for the above will be R9 790/ha, giving a margin of R7 710/ha which will be available to cover your fixed overheads.

Undertake a detailed study including profile holes, soil testing and fertiliser recommendations based on your farms conservative production potential in order to refine the exact resources and inputs to be used. Each aspect of production has become a science and the products on the market constantly change. Always use qualified people in each field for advice.

Please note that the delivery of the base products for fertiliser manufacture have been disrupted (see article on page 8). It is therefore advised that you source and purchase your inputs for your cropping programme as soon as practically possible. 

Publication: October 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula