Tom Hall, Senior Agronomist, Rooster Strategic Solutions
As the calendar rolls into September, nights begin to cool, corn enters the final stage of maturity, and seed sales professionals start turning up on farm porches, with discounts and trinkets in hand, hoping to nail down early orders. Seed companies believe that early commitments are the best way to keep business from slipping to competitors; farmers believe that early orders are the best way to lock in the best prices – and to deflect other salespeople!
But the use of harvest data is changing this business pattern. Using a precision program like Climate FieldViewTM, farmers can turn their entire farm into one giant test plot. They can analyze yields by field, hybrid, farm fungicide effectiveness, planting date, and more. A couple free trial bags of seed might have easily slipped through the cracks a few years ago; today they’re important data points. My seed professional is great at helping me select new products, but he also knows that I’m using harvest data to verify if “new” is actually “better.”
Another change this year is the complication in marketing. There have been some amazing changes in the fundamentals of farming over the last 24 months as corn, soy, and wheat prices rocketed up and down. Just look at the graphs below; corn started at $5-per-bushel, soared to $8, dropped back to $5, and recently settled around $7. Wheat rode the same rollercoaster, trading as low as $6-per-bushel, doubling in price to more than $12, then settling around $8.
Many people equate high commodity prices with overall farm profitability, and this is generally true. Unfortunately, farm costs have risen steadily over the same period. University of Illinois ag economists estimate that the breakeven price for corn is $5.58, with a soybean breakeven price at $12.50. Farm profitability is going to come down to an individual’s marketing strategy.
From an agronomic perspective, higher wheat and soy prices make double cropping a more attractive option. Wheat is an excellent cover crop that protects the soil surface from erosion. For those of us fighting resistant weeds, double cropping also delivers some control over resistant pigweeds by slowing and decreasing weed seed emergence in the spring. The weeds that do come up after the wheat harvest can be knocked back using Gramoxone®, an herbicide with paraquat as the active ingredient. This allows farmers to use a separate herbicide mode of action before soybean emergence.
The drought watch continues. Over the past couple of weeks, livestock farmers in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas received some blessed rains. Unfortunately, it may be too late for many, as drought has already taken a toll on cow herds, pastures, and the infrastructure that supports this industry. Oklahoma State specialists estimate that more than a million animals have already been culled this year. The root zone moisture map below shows a significant improvement thanks to these late August rains, allowing farmers in the Southern plains to go out now and renovate pastures, plant wheat for early fall grazing, and hope that next year will bring more and more-consistent moisture.