With Monday night’s rainfall, many areas in Pettis County received a half inch of rain, but that in no way will make up for the unusual weather pattern area farmers have faced this winter.
“Spring brings hopes, but no guarantees of another big crop,” Brent Carpenter, agricultural business specialist for Pettis County University of Missouri Extension, told the Democrat by email. “Pettis County farmers put a bumper crop in the bin in the fall of 2016.”
According to Carpenter, the United States Department of Agriculture released the 2016 corn and soybean yield estimates Feb. 23. The corn yield of 167 bushels was the second highest on record and the soybean yield of 53 bushels “obliterated” the old record.
“Weather permitting, about 170,000 acres will be planted in Pettis County in the next few weeks,” Carpenter said. “The winter has been unusually warm and dry — for example, Green Ridge has received only 1.2 inches of precipitation this calendar year.”
That amount is about two inches less than normal. Coupled with average daily temperatures running 10 to 15 degrees above normal, area farmers are once again facing challenges with getting crops in the ground.
Carpenter said farmers often watch soil temperatures as an indicator of when to plant.
“Cold, wet soils are the enemy of germinating seed and seedlings,” Carpenter said. “Soil temperatures are approaching the target of 50 degrees at the four-inch depth is viewed as target.”
When soil temperatures reach 55 degrees for several consecutive days planting will happen regardless of the calendar, Carpenter added.
Many farmers often use what Carpenter described as a risk management strategy of planting seeds of different maturities, early, mid and late, possibly spreading them over different dates as the weather permits.
The trend has been to test earlier and earlier planting dates, Carpenter added.
“Some Pettis County corn acres are likely to be planted in late March with planting getting into full swing in mid-April,” Carpenter said. “The corn planting date for crop insurance purposes (replant coverage) is April 1; corn planted prior to this date is not eligible for replant coverage because it is known to be risky.”
Carpenter characterized crop insurance as a “hugely important” risk management tool.
“Farmers have tough decisions to make in the first half of March to select the types and levels of coverage and premium costs that will work best for them,” Carpenter said.
Policies must be locked in by March 15 with the most popular policies providing not only yield coverage, but some revenue protection based on futures markets for the coming crop.
”This year’s projected prices are slightly higher than last year, but are still below or near the cost of production,” Carpenter said. “In other words, crop insurance does not allow farmers to lock in a profit; it does allow some confidence to implement a marketing strategy that might include pre-selling a crop that is not yet harvested or even planted.”
Opportunities may exist to sell old crop or new crop for a profit this spring for farmers.
“If the planting season gets off to a slow start for any reason, we can expect to see market rallies,” Carpenter said.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484