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With a lot of fieldwork to do for the 2010 crops, Mother Nature's in the driver's seat

Agriculture.com Staff 03/31/2010 @ 8:09am

As far as the 2010 crops are concerned, Mother Nature's in charge.

Hours and hours of data collection and analysis by USDA will catch a lot of eyes at first Wednesday, but the numbers contained in the morning's Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks reports won't cause much of a stir in the grain pits in Chicago moving forward, analysts say. Instead, planting weather will quickly take top priority in most traders' minds.

Farmers have a lot to do before the 2010 corn and soybean crops are in the ground, and the timeframe for the completion of that work is what be the main driver of grain prices moving through this spring, says Dale Durchholz of AgriVisor LLC. And, it's not just when the planters start rolling.

"The huger issue than planting is getting nitrogen fertilizer down," he says. "That's going to put strains in planting this spring that we'ev never seen before. We need a huge window this spring to not only get the nitrogen down, but get the fieldwork done."

That mentality has led Joe Victor to get preachy when he talks to farmers who ask him about their corn planting windows. The Allendale Inc. market analyst says he's stressed a consistent message to farmers, and will continue to do so until the entire crop's in the ground.

"We have been preaching to farmers: If you think you can wait a day to get a better seedbed to plant corn tomorrow, don't wait. Plant it today," he says.

So far, Victor adds 2010 is starting out a lot like 2009 did, with farmers behind schedule from the get-go because of the amount of fieldwork remaining to be done before planting can even get started. That may be a negative factor if farmers have already made their acreage decisions. But, if not, Durchholz says this year offers farmers a flexibility that he's never seen.

"I don't know a year like this year, going back 35 or 40 years, where farmers had a more wide-open opportunity to decide plantings in the spring like this," he says. "That goes back to the fact we didn't get a lot of fieldwork done, and more importantly, didn't get a lot of nitrogen fertilizer down."

As far as the 2010 crops are concerned, Mother Nature's in charge.

So, how will acres pan out from here forward? Wednesday's USDA estimates are fairly accurate, Victor says, given mostly normal planting conditions this spring. But, look for slightly more corn acres when USDA's June planted acreage report is released.

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