Deciding What to Seed

On a beautiful summer day, when you are out taking a drive, you notice the patchwork of different crops that are passing by your windows. 

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However, this patchwork isn’t just a thing of beauty.  It is also the result of complex strategy.  Farmers consider many factors when they decide what to seed on each field – and the seeding plan for this spring began months ago.  As we get ready to put seeds in the ground, here are just a few of the factors that impact crop rotation decisions:

Crop soil requirements: Different plants use, and replenish, different nutrients from the soil.  Some crops are best suited for a smaller range of soil types.  Being strategic about crop sequencing changes the need for fertilizers and helps to maintain soil health.

Diversity of crops: Seeding a number of different crops spreads risk as different crops are more resistant to various weather stressors.  Seeding diverse crops also spreads out harvest because of the different lengths of growing seasons.  However, every time equipment is switched between crops it requires a more time-consuming cleaning process.

Harvest time requirements: Harvest is a busy time, so matching people power to work load requirements is critical.  For instance, the physical location of fields and bins impacts the time spent moving grain off the field, so it makes sense to plant high volume crops closer to on-farm storage.

Number of buyers: Planting crops with more buyers makes it easier to market the crop, especially for increased flexibility in choosing delivery times.

Seed availability: Some crops, and some crop varieties, are in high demand.  This means that farmers must book, and sometimes pay for, the seed far in advance to ensure it is available for them to plant.

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Crop prices: World demands for various crops change as weather patterns and eating preferences change.  Crop prices fluctuate day to day, but they also show long-term trends factor into planning for financial sustainability.

Every farmer considers a matrix of factors when creating their seeding plan.  Luckily, each farmer values these factors differently, which results in the beautiful patchwork of crops we enjoy looking at, and eating.