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Planting numbers could translate to soybean opportunities

Agriculture.com Staff 03/30/2007 @ 8:56am

Friday's USDA Prospective Plantings numbers gave a bullish jolt to soybeans, but analysts say it may be only a matter of days before Friday's data is trumped by what cool, wet weather ahead could mean for spring planting progress.

USDA-NASS pegged prospective corn planting at a bearish 90.5 million acres, soybeans at 67.1 million acres and all wheat at 60.3 million. The soybean number reflects a bullish 11% drop from 2006, while all wheat is up five percent from last year.

"The U.S. producer has the capability to plant that acreage," said Jerry Gidel of the corn planting number that's 15% higher than in 2006. Friday morning.

The soybean planting number surprised many in Chicago, according to Gidel, president of Midland Research, Inc. But the general acreage shift places an even greater emphasis on the coming weeks and how Mother Nature behaves.

"The soybean number definitely caught a lot of people off guard, and the corn number, at first glance, definitely looks bearish," Gidel said Friday morning. "We're definitely going to need good corn yields this year. We're going to have to have very timely planting and weather issues will be very important this spring.

"We've got a very shaky forecast right now for planting...The next 45 days are important."

This forecast, according to Freese-Notis Weather, Inc., means an early start to spring planting may be out of the question, as cool temperatures and sometimes heavy precipitation will take soil conditions in the wrong direction.

"[Cool] temperatures will create an unfavorable environment for drying out soils, and a lot of area will certainly want some good drying weather after the amount of rain that falls this weekend," According to Freese-Notis Friday. "Overall, I see very little fieldwork getting done in the heart of the Corn Belt in the first half of April, which is a far cry from recent years (when a place like Illinois had better than one-third of their corn crop in the ground by April 15 in 2004 and 2005)."

Whether or not this forecast reaches fruition will likely move Friday's USDA planting numbers to the back-burner in the near term, says Cargill senior grain merchandiser in Eddyville, Iowa, Ray Jenkins.

"I think by Monday, we'll be talking weather as much as anything," Jenkins said Friday. "This corn move would be a lot more bearish if the weather forecast was clear and wide-open right now."

With one eye on the marketplace and one eye on the weather forecast, Corn Belt farmers now may face new factors in an old decision: Corn or soybeans? With the 15% increase in corn acreage nationwide, many of those acres are coming at the expense of soybean acres. Will Friday's prospective planting numbers be enough to change farmers' minds? A record number of corn may have already been sown in some parts of the country, but in the Corn Belt, the longer weather delays planting, the longer growers will have to ponder their planting decisions.

"There's a portion of the industry whose bed has been made, like those folks in the south who have committed to corn. Midwestern farmers still have time on their side if they want to make a decision," Jenkins said. "Here we are with one of the wetter springs we've had in the last five years, and right now, it doesn't look like we will be planting by the 10th or 15th of April."

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