Crops can be profitable for a variety of reasons. Some are staples of day-to-day life, some flourish in specific climates, and some are popular because they are trendy (think superfoods like kale and avocados). Today, we’re going to take a look at what makes these five top crops so successful and how you can make even more money off of them.
When choosing our top crops, we’ve factored in three key things:
- Profitability (of course!)
- Demand (both historic and recent)
- Value (current and predicted)
Of course, some of these crops might not be right for your specific land and the current tariff war has temporarily lowered the value of some of the crops on this list. But we think these five crops are excellent investments in the long term.
What Makes It A Top Crop: Corn is in everything! It’s used in animal feed, plastic, penicillin, sugar substitutes, whisky, ethanol, and so much more! While the demand may fluctuate, there will always be a need for corn.
How To Make More Money: At the Illinois Soybean Association event, successful corn farmer Randy Dowdy shared his secrets to success, saying “The difference between a good farmer and a great farmer is timing and attention to detail.” Dowdy kept a close eye on his expenses to see what his return for investment was, and was able to determine from that what he could cut back on.
Dowdy is also a huge fan of minerals. “You want 300-bushel-per-acre corn? If it takes a certain amount of nitrogen, a certain amount of phosphorous, and a certain amount of potash to make a bushel of corn, my question is, how much magnesium, molybdenum, copper, iron, sulfur, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, potash, boron and zinc does it take to make a bushel of corn? Yields are based on limiting factors,” Dowdy said. If all this sounds close to a foreign language to you, it’s a perfect example of why it is so important to find a qualified expert to help with your land transaction. You’ll need to consider everything from ROI to soil type when determining if this is the right crop for your prop.
What Makes It A Top Crop: Technically, pigs aren’t exactly crops, but they are still in high demand. A strong demand and high prices make pork a great “crop”.
How To Make More Money: Make your own feed. Feeding pigs can be a huge money drain. Here is a great recipe for making your own pig feed.
Raising the most in-demand pigs ensures you can get higher prices for the same amount of meat. Some popular ones are the American Yorkshire Pig, Berkshire pigs, and Durco pigs. We have lots of other helpful tips in our recent article on how the Pork Industry Brings Home the Bacon.
What Makes It A Top Crop: The USDA predicts that sorghum will return $74 per acre for the 2018-2019 year. While this is a lower return than some of the other plants on this list, in many high-altitude areas, hearty sorghum can be more profitable than corn. Other countries like China buy tons of sorghum as a cheap feed source or to make alcohol.
How To Make More Money: Don’t invest all your money in sorghum just yet. Recently, China imposed a 179% tariff on sorghum. Previously, sorghum was the number one import from China. While this crop has hit a rough spot internationally, it still has a ton of potential. We suggest waiting until the tariff war dies down though before growing this crop.
What Makes It A Top Crop: Even in the face of a tariff war, America is the leading soybean producer and exporter in the whole world. Similar to corn, soybean has a lot of uses, such as animal feed, cooking oil, biodiesel fuel, and more. Plus, as consumers become more health conscious, it is also often a great way to get plant-based protein.
How to Make More Money: Similar to sorghum, we wouldn’t recommend buying soybeans right now. In the future, check out the tips from Dan Arkels, winner of the 2014 Illinois Soybean Association yield contest, from his article on agriculture.com:
- Get the right soil. Arkles recommends soil that holds water well and has excellent drainage. “My soils are black, tight, and deep Muscatine-Sable type of soils,” said Arkles.
- Plant early. Early planting allows soybeans have an increased flowering period. “A soybean plant is light-sensitive, and it will flower as late as the season allows,” he says.
- Weed management. Did you know that around fifty percent of waterhemp seeds are viable nine days after flowering? Removing waterhemp plants before the harvest prevents future waterhemp.
What Makes It A Top Crop: While still illegal in some states, marijuana is medically legal in 30 states and recreationally in nine. Its new legality makes it an incredibly trendy crop. It’s currently the fastest growing crop in America. Hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, is still illegal, but there is a huge push to legalize it in Congress.
How To Make More Money: This one is tricky. Since legal marijuana is not federally legal, you want to make sure to work within the law. One way to make more money is knowing all the products that can come from this plant. It has uses in medicine, helping veterans suffering from PTSD, beauty products, and many other uses.
Even the best crops can have slumps. However, we hope this list got you thinking about ways to make more money off of your crops or even new ways that you can make sure you’re getting the highest and best use out of your property. If you’re thinking of purchasing land to grow one of these Top Crops, make sure to Find A Land Consultant near you. Purchasing and managing land real estate requires specialized expertise!
About the Author: Laura Barker is the Membership and Communications Specialist for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.