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Roy Smith: Strange times

Last Friday, August 20, Sharon and I drove to Wichita for one of our mini vacations. We returned home on Monday afternoon. While eastern Kansas is not known for being a major grain producing area, it was interesting to view crop conditions before we got to the area that is mostly cattle country. 

The corn crop was mostly green around here when we left. Not far south of us, starting between Nebraska City and Auburn, the corn fields were totally yellow. I assumed on the way down that the odd color was from excess moisture earlier in the season. That situation continued all the way into Kansas.  As we got further south we saw several fields that had been chopped. 

Coming back on Monday it was surprising to see that the fields that had been yellow the previous Friday were mostly brown just four days later. Apparently, the change in color from green to brown was from premature ripening. Four days of very high temperatures had taken their toll. From all appearances it will not be very long until the combines roll in those fields. 

My observations of the fields south of here led me to do some scouting, after I got home. I had noticed that yellow spots were showing up in my fields as well. I didn’t think the condition was from lack of nitrogen, because my land is all well-drained and I had used nitrogen inhibitor with the fertilizer after planting. Because I need to run some residual nitrogen tests, I wanted to see if the corn in those spots was nearing maturity.  Much to my surprise and relief, I found that the corn in those yellow spots was no where near black layer. Apparently the ears are pulling nutrients from the stalk even where the leaves are mostly dry. 

Conditions in the soybean fields are almost opposite those in the corn fields. The color is uniformly dark green. I have yet to see a field starting to mature. The agronomist that watches my fields tells me that disease and insect activity is almost non-existent. There was an inch and a half of rain earlier this week. The rainfall came at the perfect time to finish filling the pods and adding pounds to the beans that were already starting to fill. 

To have the price going up under these conditions is an added bonus on top of what is probably going to be a very large crop. A small rally in the soybean market in the last half of August and the first week of September is common as the trade evaluates the growing conditions, as the crop is in the pod-filling stage. Having a rally in the corn market when the earliest corn is already mature is unusual. This is one time of year when prices of the two crops most often go in opposite directions. 

At this point, I do not want to add to new crop sales. The sales I already have on the books are below today’s levels. Considering the normal seasonal patterns for soybeans, I am willing to let the rally run for two more weeks to see if prices go up into the September crop report again this year. At some point, I will price the rest of the bushels I deliver at harvest. The dead cat bounce will be a second chance if I miss this opportunity!

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