For corn and soybean growers, the calendar says we are well past the mid-season mark, but in many parts of corn/soy country, the crops didn’t get the memo.
With late planting and cool weather from spring through the end of July, it’s a race to the finish line for many corn and soybean fields. The “F” word – frost – is starting to pop up in farmer conversations and with market analysts trying to get a handle on whether we are headed for bumper crops and big surpluses or a potential shortfall should an early frost derail yield and quality across significant acres.
Whatever the future holds, it’s a good time to reflect on lessons learned to this point and some of the factors in and out of the field that will ultimately dictate how this growing season unfolds. I hope you will share some items from your mid-season review.
Here is my list:
1) Timely planting looks like a key factor again this year. It was a spring where planting occurred in fits and starts. Perfect soil conditions were hard to come by, but waiting it out does not look like a winning strategy this year because perfect conditions did not present themselves.
2) Cost control will loom large. Leading up to planting season, the high cost of fertilizer was front and center for many producers, but big land rents will also pressure profitability. With softening markets and a late crop, it’s looking like big yields will be required if cost control was not maximized. Last year we threw every product possible at our crops – those days are over. Are those big yields there?
3) Lost and found acres. I won’t belabor this point, but it’s been a strange year for acreage estimates from all players. The USDA and others were way off on early guesses (and that’s what they appear to be) for corn acreage. “Finding” millions of acres of corn sent the market into a power dive. Acres for corn and soybeans have been adjusted, and markets have moved on to other influencers – namely the need for an open fall.
4) Insecticide seed treatment on soys has helped keep aphids and bean leaf beetle at bay.
5) Perennial sow thistle is my primary weed issue – especially on non-RR identity preserved soybeans.
6) Slugs are really challenging soybean fields that are no-tilled into heavy corn residue from last year’s big crop. Too much moisture and slow growing crop has allowed slugs to do some serious damage.
7) Every producer I talk to seems to be rethinking their tillage/non-tillage strategies. The tough conditions this spring have everyone looking for alternatives that keep costs low, but reduce risk. This spring showed that there is perfect system. Vertical tillage is gaining momentum.
8) Now may be a good time to lock in some nitrogen fertilizer prices for 2010. There are some relative bargains to be had.
What are your thoughts as we turn the corner and head for the home stretch? What are you seeing in your fields? What factors will make this year a success or disappointment?
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