Agronomic trials suggest that alternately planting narrow strips of corn and soybeans in the same fields rather than planting single crop fields of each crop may increase total value of yield for the two crops (Windsor; Bullock and Bullock; Recker). This approach, which is referred to as Strip Intercropping, may improve the efficiency of light reception for the taller crop (corn), though at the expense of shading the shorter soybean crop.
We develop a systematic comparison of the potential profitability of the Strip Intercropping system and the conventional single crop system on both large-scale (5300 acre) and medium scale (1200 acre) corn-soybean operations.
We compare farm-level revenue and cost projections for the two systems under a range of relative corn and soybean prices, weather conditions and strip widths. Relative prices for corn and soybeans are critical as the existing agronomic trials suggest that, as the shorter crop, soybean yields suffer at the expense of improved corn yields.
The analysis suggests that the implementation of Strip Intercropping on operations of a scale that fully utilize the capacity of large capacity equipment would not increase profitability. The analysis does not consider the one-time costs of altering the machinery complement to fit the narrow strip production system, possibly providing further resistance to farmers considering the transition. However, it ignores possible yield boosts from decreased compaction, which may manifest from switching to smaller equipment. Further, additional work is needed to consider the potential profitability for smaller operations that currently possess smaller capacity equipment.