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Red flag

Agriculture.com Staff 04/25/2008 @ 12:01pm

There is a theory in marketing that when your dentist and lawyer start talking about a particular commodity, the good times are about over.

I wonder if the grain markets have reached that point. There has been talk in the public about the high price of grains for some time. However, this week one of the big stories has been a discount store's policy of limiting the amount of rice that an individual can purchase at one time. This move is supposedly meant to curb hoarding by people afraid that the world will run out of rice.

This came the same week as some commercial wheat buyers were selling wheat back into the market that had been purchased back in March when there were fears that the world would run out of wheat. When insiders are selling at the same time as there is public hoarding, it is one sign that the top might be in.

Neither rice nor wheat is as important as soybeans and corn in the Midwest. However, those of us who raise corn and beans should take note of what has happened in the food grains markets as a hint of what could be ahead for our crops. Since the highs in the market caused by fears of running out of some grades of wheat, the May futures on hard red winter wheat have dropped $4.65 per bushel. The grain trade now believes that an adequate crop is on the way and is adjusting prices accordingly.

Something similar will probably happen in the other markets. The trade is now factoring planting delays into the mix. Even with recent the price drop, it is hard to ignore that the corn crop is slow getting into the ground. When that ceases to be a factor, the production risk is diminished. At some point commercial buyers will be less worried about future supplies. When that happens, feed grains and soybean could have a move similar to what has happened in wheat.

I started planting corn on Wednesday. I had tried it Tuesday, but the soil was just too wet and cold. Wednesday it worked well. Thursday morning we had .10 inches of rain. I went to the field at noon but quit around 3 P.M. because it seemed to be getting wetter rather than drier. Last night, we had another half inch of rain. We will be out of the field for at least two days. Most people in my area have not started to plant yet.

Whether it pays to push the envelope to get corn planted in April depends on the weather in the growing season. If the summer is dry, early planted corn yields better than corn planted in May. If there is plenty of rain during the summer, the difference is less. When deciding whether to plant early in slightly wet soil, I remember 1982 when I started planting corn June 1. The few acres some farmers planted before that had a big yield advantage over the late planted corn.

Rain in May of 1984 again prevented timely planting. However, that year I planted no-till and had all of my corn in the ground before the rains started. There was a 50 bushel yield advantage of corn planted in April vs. corn planted in June. With no-till I can plant under wetter conditions than where tillage is used without suffering the yield loss from working the soil wet. I currently have 60 percent of my corn planted. I am happy with that, but look forward to a couple of warm dry days to finish that job.

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