Study: larger farms had higher corn yields, more profitability

A recent report found that farms with better profits are typically larger with higher crop yields and better-managed expenses.

Brad Zwilling with Illinois Farm Business and Management tells Brownfield the University of Illinois study compared the highest profit grain farms to lower profit grain farms.

He says 2020 corn and soybean yields were anywhere from 2-7 bushels per acre higher. “That was also the contributing factor to the higher gross returns we saw. When we looked at that in the 2020 year, that contributed to $74 to $136 per acre more revenue than they had, and we looked at that over the last 10 years and that was $132 more.”

He says the study looked at four regions of operations across Illinois and can reflect other parts of the Corn Belt based on similar soil profiles. 

Zwilling says large operations changed crop rotations by planting 1-2 percent less corn. “The high third group was planting a little bit less corn then the low third.  That’s interesting because we’re planting more soybeans.  We’ve seen here over the last couple of years it’s more profitable to plant more soybeans than corn.”

The highest profit grain farms are categorized in the top one-third and the lower profit gran farms are classified as the lower one-third.

He says operations that were 200 to 800 acres larger in size also found ways to increase their bottom line. “I think that’s contributing to being able spread out their cost – they have labor and machinery cost that they’re able to spread over a larger percent of the acres to bring down those per acre costs.”

He says there are several other factors that help improve profitability for both large-and small-scale farms.

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