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Farmers juggling planting options

John Walter Updated: 03/02/2012 @ 12:04pm

At the 2012 Commodity Classic on Thursday, March 1, it was hard to find a farmer who wasn't going to expand corn acres this spring. Some 5,800 attendees were on hand in Nashville, Tennessee to view the latest in ag technology and learn about the top issues in farm management and policy.

At the Successful Farming/Agriculture.com trade show booth, farmers took a first-of-a-kind survey -- a planting intentions survey conducted exclusively on smartphones.  Many farmers were toting the mobile devices and were willing to share their plans for the spring.

While "more corn" seemed to be the main choice of farmers stopping by the booth, the poll itself, which is available to anyone visiting the mobile website at m.agriculture.com, shows soybeans in the lead for now -- by about ten percentage points over corn. Smaller percentages of farmers say they intend to grow more wheat, cotton, hay, or other crops this spring.

Some farmers cited yields and agronomic issues for their corn push this spring. "We just get a better yield response with corn," said Wilbur Ellis, Sparta, Michigan. "Our bean yields have hit a plateau. If we get August rains, yields drop back in the forties."

Paul Freeman, Starbuck, Minnesota, is moving to more corn on corn this year for the same reason. "We can expand our corn yields," he said. "Our soybean yields are stagnant."


'Corn, corn, corn?'

A good number of farmers who spoke with Agriculture.com staff said the corn market has been the driving force for taking on more acres of the crop this spring.

"Right, now, the markets are telling us to plant corn," said Jason Misiniec, Bicknell, Indiana. "But, I'm afraid that lately [the markets] are telling us to bring back beans, too."

Misiniec generally sticks to a 50:50 corn-soybean rotation, but sometimes will go "heavier on the corn. We're pretty flexible," he says.

The flexibility of a fair number of farmers may mean some continuing drama in the planning process prior to spring.

"At this point we plan to somewhat expand on our corn acres," said Dean Meyer, Rock Rapids, Iowa. "But we've seen the price increase in soybean prices and we have some 'sponge' acres that can go either go either way. We haven't tied up the soil with nitrogen or any herbicides to prohibit that."

The corn expansion strategy may be getting revisited by more than a few farmers, Meyer says. "All winter we've heard corn, corn, corn. But it's kind of interesting in the last couple weeks with the soybean market going up, there are those farmers who are second guessing that. I've talked to a lot of people here who are changing their minds."

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