Friday, March 23, 2012

Those Decisions..

To plant, or not to plant, is that the question? More farmers took the bait and planted this week. One farmer planted 800 acres of corn in our county but he has the ability to withstand the loss if it wasn't a good decision. My intuition, my gut feeling is we just had 3 good days to plant corn.

We will have more but will they be as good as these three? We can argue about that a year from now, or earlier! Corn was planted from Minnesota to Ontario to New York this week as farmers looked at the soil, the trees, the signs and decided, "the calendar is wrong."

My friend Chris Bruynis at Ohio State wrote a good piece on this question this week. "Unseasonably, warm, dry weather has prompted farmers to think about planting. If one looks at Mother Nature and the development of the tree leaves along with the current soil temperature, it is time to plant. But if one looks at the calendar and reads the provisions of their crop insurance policy it is not. So what is at risk?"

My risk is my seed and the cost of planting. Everything else has to be done anyway. The nitrogen is still there, the herbicide is still there. My risk is less because it costs about $15 an acre to plant and my seed is $150 or so, or less than $50 per acre. It adds up to a lot of money but so does the potential loss by missing the 3 best days of planting corn this year.

If my cost is $60 per acre, I have to gain 15 or so bushels an acre for planting early. Throwing out last year, normally I gain 15 bushels each month planting April through June. I have seen that replicated most years of my life.

I wouldn't worry if I planted this week and I wouldn't worry if I didn't but it's time to plant. The day I pick sets the maximum yield that field will make given all the other variables. Farmers time their crop to nature. It all comes down to experience and what you are comfortable with when it comes to risk.

I bet those soybeans are up I wrote about recently.



  1. You know Ed, I feel totally unqualified to give you advice. You have been building up your soil and you probably have more forgiving ground at this point but I have sure seen some yellow corn and it is depressing for sure.
    On the other hand I planted early for some folks last year and put 8 gal of 10-34 right in the row. That helped the corn get though the following cold wet weather.
    But... 30 acres of it was a failure and 150 acres was a success. I really hate decisions like that and anymore I rarely take the risk.
    In my humble opinion...

  2. Budde, I got email and tweets and calls about my cost per acre! HA on them! Seriously it is a very personal decision but when your farm is visible to anyone and most are, you are subject to ridicule. That has never bothered me too much, but I do want to do it right and do it once. I think the older you get the less risk you take even if you thought you were a risk taker at a younger age.