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Planting with markets in mind

I finished planting corn on Wednesday of this week. That is not a big accomplishment for someone with only a little over 100 acres. I started planting earlier than ever because the machinery was ready to go and the soil and weather conditions were nearly perfect. I only worked a couple of hours the first three days because it just seemed to be awfully early, even though conditions seemed to dictate no need for caution. Neighbors that started ten days earlier now have corn that can easily be seen from the road.

I am always a little nervous, until I can see the corn I have planted. There are so many things that can go wrong with infant corn plants. I try to plant my seed corn two to three inches deep. Going that deep with the seed means that it is difficult to check the population and placement, until the shoots break through the soil. This year, my worries were greater than normal because there was a terrible rainstorm five days after I started planting. Between two and three inches of rain, in a very short time, caused extensive erosion even in fields that had not been tilled in 20 years.

The biggest concern this time was that the heavy rain would cause crusting. I scouted my earliest planting Thursday morning. Emergence is a little uneven, but it appears that there will be plenty of plants when they all poke through the soil. I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled into the field that had been under water all of last summer. I had checked it a couple of weeks earlier and found the soil to be slimy and water logged. However, on Tuesday of this week, I was able to plant two-thirds of the acres. I could have planted more if it had been tilled up. At some point, I will have to decide if it is worth the trouble to go back and prepare a few more acres for late planting or if it best to work on it this summer to be ready to plant next spring.

I will be ready to plant soybeans when I get the planter switched from corn. Planting soybeans before May 1 also seems a bit premature. However, research at the University of Nebraska and experience of neighboring farmers has shown that there is no reason to wait. Maybe today’s weather will give me a clue as to next week’s activities.

Markets this week continue to be erratic. That should be no surprise. At this time of year, traders place their bets on what the new crop will be and where that will lead prices. Long term seasonal charts show odds for the yearly high to be in the April through June time period. With very tight supplies and much of the country suffering weather problems, minor changes in perception of fundamentals cause big swings in price. Many of those take place in less than a day’s time.

The kind of market that we experienced this week is ideal for using good-till-cancelled orders to trigger sales. These can be entered with your broker or elevator’s grain buyer to make a sale when a price target is hit. This week saw a pricing opportunity come and go in less time than it took to make a telephone call. I got cash corn sold this week under such circumstances. Likewise, I may have missed selling some new crop soybeans, because I did not have the order in when the market opened.   

The basis and spreads on both corn and soybeans are telling farmers not to hold grain until July. It is possible to see grain prices rally into July. However, the best guesses showing up on the quote sheets indicate that the trade wants the grain now, not six weeks from now.

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