This has been a difficult start to the planting season with weather delays constantly occurring or at least seeming that way.  

If it looks like some of your crop may not be planted during the optimum window or you get behind for whatever reason, it may be time to consider having some of your crop custom planted.

It may also be an opportunity, if available, to have your crop precision planted with an up to date planter. Planters today have made great strides in their technology to assist in getting the crop off to the best start possible.

We also sometimes find producers who have gotten through with planting and may be wanting to spread their fixed cost out by picking up some custom planting or may be asked to help out a neighbor.

We always get calls for how much should be charged for custom planting. The University of Tennessee 2013 Crop Budgets calculates the total cost for a 16 row corn/ soybean split row planter at $15.42 an acre.

A 12 row cotton planter is calculated to cost $12.20 an acre.

This does not include any costs a producer would have for a seed tender or other methods of getting seed to the planter.

Published Custom Rate Guides from Kentucky and Iowa can shed further light on custom planting cost.

We hope to have a Tennessee guide in the future to be able to use.

I will use the custom rates from the Kentucky Guide since it is summarizing custom rates from 6 states. I would note the Iowa Guide is similar.

The Kentucky Guide uses an average rate as well as lists 15 percent below average and 30 percent above average. These differences help account for the efficiency among producers.

Smaller acreage less efficient

The higher cost custom rate should capture more of the custom operators working with less efficient equipment. Another way to look at that range would be smaller acreage custom planted is less efficient to the equipment operator and may necessitate a higher charge to offset the drop in efficiency.

As the acreage increases the efficiency increases and a lower charge may be justified. An operator with updated equipment, skilled person on the planter, and one who does an above average job is worth it.

A no – till planting rate for corn (cotton would be comparable, maybe not quite as much) ranges from $15.00 an acre to $23.00 acre with the average final rate of $17.50 acre.

A planter with attachments for fertilizer or chemical application would be a little higher with a range of $16.50 to $25.00 with the average final rate of $19.50.

Soybeans planted on 15 inch rows, 30 inch rows or drilled, range from $14.50 to $23.50 per acre with an average final rate of $17.50 acre.

A producer just wanting to cover the cost of planting would need at least $12.20 an acre for a cotton planter and $15.50 an acre for a corn/ soybean split row planter(depending on age and size of equipment and whether seed tenders, etc. were used) while the going market rate averages in the $17.50 – $19.50 per acre range.

I would note that the Iowa State guide lists an extra $2.20 per acre charge for seed shut off that automatic section control planters have. They also list an additional $2.45 an acre charge for variable rate seeding.

Some adjustments should be made depending on the efficiency and skill of the operator. 

In most cases, yield increases from timely planting during the optimum planting window will offset the custom rate cost. 

Closely evaluate your planter and use the information to make adjustments for not only this year, but future years as well.

Producers having trouble getting planted during the optimum window should consider custom planting, upgrading planters, or maybe adding an additional planter.

On the Web:

University of Tennessee Crop Budgets – http://economics.ag.utk.edu/budgets.html.

Kentucky Custom Rate Guide – http://www.ca.uky.edu/cmspubsclass/files/ghalich/CustomMachineryRatesKentucky2013.pdf.

Iowa Custom Rate Guide – http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a3-10.pdf.

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