Sunday, August 28, 2011

Not again...  

The similarities between this growing season and last are disturbing. Historically, we simply haven't had dramatic rainfall shortages such as have begun about the first week July each year. In fact, only during the spring months do we get anything like normal rainfall lately. The temps speak for themselves.

There is no way of knowing, but the prudent scenario seems to be to prepare for similar weather patterns for 2012. The moisture shortage already baked in (pun intended) means the odds of dryness starting out next year are already higher.

FWIW, here's our strategy:
  1. 50/50 rotation. We will have to plant about 100 A. of corn-on-corn to get to closer to even numbers of acres, but CoC has taken it in the shorts big time last year and especially this year. 
  2. There ain't nothing in the "stacks" to help with hot nights, so we are valuing expensive corn largely on the basis of ease of planting. If conventional corn repeats its performance from last year versus stacked hybrids, we'll take the money and load up Smart Boxes.
  3. Rip all the bean ground. Out theory is we need to make the soil capable of absorbing as much of the spring moisture as possible, while still drying out enough plant in good condition. Roots need to be able to go down as deeply as possible as early as possible. And "ponds" are killers.
  4. More tile. While we are giving serious thoughts to installing control gates in some of our new systems, the need to have ground work/plant right as early as possible means drainage on our heavy soils.
  5. Vertical tillage. We bought about 1.5 days of planting this year by running a Verta-Till over some fields. If the yields hold up, such hours could be gold. We'll also use it in the fall on corn stubble.
  6. "Window" planting. We don't seem to get "seasons" to plant, but ~ 72-hour windows. We have to be able to get as much planted as fast as possible and still get it started well.
  7. More short-season hybrids. Our theory is get pollination and fill over before the race for moisture is over. Also we are moving characteristics like Goss's wilt tolerance and standability up as selection criteria because of the rapid spread of the former and the higher probability of stalk cannibalization.
  8. Early, wetter (corn moisture) harvests. This year's crop won't handle a normal windy fall October front, let alone a significant storm. Given prices and drying costs coupled with early demand I'll spot Cargill ~50¢ off the $7.60 bid to get it out of the field.
  9. More bins. Harvest windows must not be negated by elevator lines.
  10. Possibly adding a second N app, perhaps UAN as sidedress depending on weather after planting.
  11. Corn head guidance feelers. I think down corn will be present more often rather than the exception.
As they say, your mileage may vary, but those who say there is nothing we can do to deal with changing weather patterns are wrong, IMHO. And those who are betting on a return to more normal summer weather patterns are entitled to the payoff if they are right. The steps above represent costly, but possible high payoff actions that could make a big difference. If we are wrong we will lose less than those who bet the other scenario, since many of the investments have some value regardless.


Anonymous said...

2 SUGGESTIONS. Try a cover crop instead of deep tillage. I question how well guidance fingers will work in down corn, haven't had that experience yet.

Derek said...

If one truly believed in climate change, wouldn't it be a better bet to sell the high-priced Illinois farmland and move north to Dakotas, MN, or Canada?

John Phipps said...


That is indeed an option we keep open and certainly one litmus test that will be applied to those of us who accept AGW. It will also harden the positions of those who do not.

It is similar to those who think our debt problem will trigger hyperinflation but do not buy hard assets. Does this negate their conviction?

But it is not just my decision, as my time horizon is curtailed. And I think the the reward goes to those who act just slightly before the majority.

Besides, there are huge costs in such a move, and we feel beginning a mitigation strategy to be able to capture much of the benefits without the considerable pain at this point.

Derek said...

Probably a good idea. This study doesn't make North Dakota look very rosy. Although we hear of good crops this year, the "mileage may vary."

Anonymous said...

Well its not really AGW, the drought in Texas is just God punishing them for their misdeeds according to some. He/She also uses earthquakes, hurricanes, a whole range of natural disaster punishments. Maybe even a hailstone or two on corn for some minor Saturday night indulgence.

Anonymous said...

Guidance system on new Deere corn head has paid for itself this year after hurricane Irene - if not in yeild, definitely in operator fatigue!