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Variables stacking up for late planting options

Agriculture.com Staff 05/01/2008 @ 9:27am

Looking at your waterlogged fields and wondering what your options are? You're not alone.

The cool, wet spring weather is keeping farmers out of the fields, maybe making soybeans a more viable option for those intended corn acres still unplanted after the normal mid-May deadline for planting. The battle for acres may not be over just yet.

But, soybean seed is in short supply in many areas. And, the quality of the seed that is out there may be questionable. So, even if a farmer has acres to plant to beans, the needed seed may not be available.

"It's been really tough to fill invoices for quality soybean seeds placed in the winter," Brent Floyd with Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. in Elwood, Indiana, tells Dow Jones Newswires in a recent report. "Bean seed supplies are definitely tight in Indiana. I can't speak for the entire Corn Belt, but I just don't see a wholesale switch to soybeans from corn due to this issue."

This spring's weather has combined with soybean seed quality issues to exacerbate the seed availability crunch. Last year's seed crop is fraught with germination issues, and those problems are magnified when the seed is planted in less-than-perfect conditions.

"Farmers who were not able to plant during this timeframe understandably get impatient. However, planting into a seedbed that is too wet can cause problems later in the season. Sidewall compaction is only the beginning of growers' problems if they plant in a seedbed that is too wet," says Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agronomist Palle Pedersen. "We want to wait until the conditions are right to plant to give the seed every advantage we can."

Pedersen says adding a seed treatment and/or fungicide application can help farmers avoid problems typical of a cool, damp spring. Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) Robert Pesek of Gibbon, Nebraska, says he's recommending treatments like these as well as increased plant populations where the seed is available.

"Soil temperatures are still on the cool side and most people agree that the temperatures (both soil and air) need to warm up," Pesek says. "Growers switching to soybeans are nervous about the soil temperatures and a few are using seed treatments for the first time. Others are increasing their planting population to compensate for the cool soils."

Throw the corn and soybean markets into the mix and, when combined with all the other variables, planting corn still may be the best option for farmers struggling to get their '08 crops in the ground.

"Normally farmers would jump at the opportunity to plant soybeans with prices at $12.00 a bushel, but with soybean seed quality down, the western Corn Belt will be pushing corn plantings, and with more corn seed availability and quality, the eastern Corn Belt could see increased corn plantings," Mike Zuzolo, senior analyst with Risk Management Commodities Inc. in Lafayette, Indiana, tells Dow Jones Newswires in a report this week.

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