At the back-end of soybean production in 2011, prices are expected to remain fairly good. At the front-end production costs are expected to rise, and saving on input costs will be a critical issue in making money with soybeans in 2011.

Soybean acreage is expected to be down slightly across the Southeast in 2011, but prices remain good. To take full advantage of the good soybean prices, growers are going to need to save as much money as possible on the front-end of production to produce enough profit to compete with other crops.

For growers in the upper Southeast wheat as a double-crop is often the difference in making money growing soybeans. Wheat prices jumped in January from around $8 per bushel to $8.92. 

A wheat/soybean double-crop, if marketed precisely, could bring growers $21-22 per bushel, but early maturing wheat and late-planted soybeans isn’t a good recipe for optimum yields.

With cotton prices still above 90 cents a pound and peanut contracts in excess of $600 per ton, soybeans are likely to lose acreage to cotton, but won’t be able to make it up by taking over peanut acreage.

The high projected prices for row crops grown in the Southeast are offering growers some cropping options, but in general are ramping up prices quicker than most forecasters predicted back in the fall.

Initial forecasts called for production increases of 2-3 percent for soybeans, 5 percent for corn and eight percent for wheat. With all commodities competing for acreage, those cost increase estimates now (January 2011) are nearly double forecasts only 2-3 months ago.

Fertilizer costs have declined since the rapid spike in 2008, but that trend is almost certain to end in 2011. USDA cost estimates for 2011 are $535-$675 for anhydrous, $420-$550 for potash and similar increases for other fertilizers.

Two factors: the cost of energy and demand could dramatically increase fertilizer costs as growers get closer to planting date. There is little hope that fertilizer prices will remain stable for 2011, most economists agree.

Pesticide cost will likely follow the upward trend in price, but should not be as volatile as fertilizer. With an expected increase in glufosinate-tolerant crops in 2011 in the Southeast, plus continued dependence on glyphosate as a primary weed management tool, there is some concern that herbicide prices could increase moderately in 2011.