Economic evaluation of a crop rotation portfolio for irrigated farms in central Chile

Jorge González U.1*, Pablo Undurraga1, Juan Hirzel1, and Ingrid Martínez G.1
The sustainable use of productive resources by agricultural producers in the central valley of Chile should be compatible with economic results so that producers can select an appropriate rotation or succession of annual crops and pasture. The objective of this work was to evaluate the economic behavior of four food crop and supplementary forage rotations using indicators of profitability and profit variability. Productive data were used from a long-term experiment (16 yr) in the central valley of Chile under conditions of irrigation. With productive data and information on historic input/output prices, the real net margin per rotation (RNMR) and its coefficient of variation (CV) were determined. The results indicated that the highest economic benefits and greatest economic stability were obtained with rotations that only included crops, namely sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L. subsp. vulgaris)-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)-barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) (CR2) and corn (Zea mays L.)-wheat-bean-barley (CR4). These rotations included crops with low CV of the net margin, such as wheat, barley and beans, with values between 0.31 and 0.34. The rotations with crops and pasture, sugar beet-wheat-red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) (2) (CR1) and corn-wheat-red clover (2) (CR3) had lower net margins and more variability of this indicator. Red clover had the highest CV value (1.00). The selection of crops for rotations and their sequence were determining factors in the economic behavior of rotations, affecting the level of RNMR and the degree of inter-annual variability of this indicator. Thus, differences among rotations of 47% in net margin were determined (CR2 vs. CR1), which only differed in the replacement of pasture with red clover (2) by bean-barley. The economic analysis based on the net margin and its variability allow for discriminating among rotations, providing valuable information for producers in deciding which crops to use in rotations.
Keywords: Crop rotation, economic analyses, economic decision-making tools, portfolio of rotations, variation in net margin.
1Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias INIA, Av. Vicente Méndez 515, Chillán, Chile. *Corresponding author (jgonzale@inia.cl).