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Sunflower and soybeans: Planning ahead for the next season is important

April 2021

Pietman Botha, Pula Imvula contributor. Send an email to pietmanbotha@gmail.com  

It is never too early to start planning the next season’s crop. It is important to calculate how much money is needed and when the money will be needed. The sunflower or soya production system followed will determine what and how much inputs is needed.

Planning the next season must start with the potential of the different fields including this current year production practises that worked and did not work well. Each field needs to be planned according to the crop and the potential as well as what was planted on the field. Include herbicide restrictions into the planning. Remember to incorporate crop rotation effects for example higher maize yields following soybeans.

Production funds for the next production year must be available during July this year. There should be funds available for soil sampling, soil correction, winter weed control and then all other inputs needed. It is important to understand that soil correction will have an effect on the next crop’s production. Make sure that when lime is applied, it will not have a negative effect on the upcoming crop.

There are norms to calculate the cost of the inputs needed.

Seed: The seed costs for sunflower and soybeans is easy to determine. Sunflower can be planted with a plant population between 30 000 and 45 000 plants per hectare, but consult with your seed representative. With their help the cultivar planted, plant population per hectare and cost can be determined. In the case of soya, aim at a plant population of 250 000 to 500 000 plants per hectare with a yield optimum at around 400 000 for high potential rain-fed plantings.

Fertiliser: The fertiliser cost is more difficult to calculate but possible. The Fertiliser Association of Southern Africa publish on a regular basis the fertiliser withdrawal figures per crop. See Table 1 for the nutrient removal of various crops. The plant nutrients requirements (kg/ha) for sunflower on a sandy loam soil type with a 15% to 20% clay percentage is shown in Table 2. With this information consult your fertiliser representative and calculate the fertiliser needed as well as the costs. The latest soil sample data will also help a lot and fairly accurate calculation can be done.

Herbicide and pesticide: Your herbicide and pesticide programme will differ according to the type of sunflower or soybeans planted. If a Clearfield Plus cultivar is planted the programme will differ from a standard cultivar. Once the cultivar to plant is selected, let your herbicide representative visit your field and with his knowledge decide on the herbicide and pesticide programme. With their assistance you will be able to have a good indication of what the programme will cost. Whatever the crop, the herbicide programme must prevent the germination of weed as weeds will have a negative impact on your yield.

Diesel and repair work: The diesel and repair work can also be fairly accurately calculated. As a rule of thumb for conventional production practises 75 litres of diesel will be used. Use the current fuel price and you will be close to the actual cost. There is always a connection between diesel cost and repair and maintenance cost. If you add an extra 10% to your fuel cost it should be close to their repairs and maintenance costs needed. Other costs like hedging and contract work insurance must also be included.

The difference between income and the direct allocatable costs is the crop gross margin. Table 3 shows the expected gross margin for the sunflower and maize crop budgets at different yields for the western and eastern production regions. It gives a summary of the most direct allocatable costs. Famers can use this as an example to calculate their maize, soybeans and sunflower cost and gross margin for the crops. Remember if the gross margin is negative, the possibility that the crop will be profitable, is most unlikely. Review the costs and make some adjustments.

Publication: April 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula