This week on ProFarmer.com has been 'all crop tour, all the time', and as traders and growers look to the Crop Tour estimates as a bellwether of the upcoming harvest, reports from the field are of an encouraging start to a crop with a little ground yet to cover before topping expectations. Despite the record rainfall received in June across much of the Cornbelt, both the eastern and western legs of the Tour report a need for rain.
Looking back to that washed-out June, growers were encouraged to apply an extra shot of Nitrogen to replace what was lost to leeching and runoff. Many Midwestern growers opted for a 32% sidedress in July, and we saw a decent demand push for about four weeks through the summer. Those fields that missed the extra application are showing up as N deficient on Pro Farmer's Crop Tour.
Western Tour Leader and Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory told the Monitor today, "Absolutely we have seen some nitrogen deficiencies resulting from the heavy rains early this summer, but not enough to impact the overall yield in a major way. What's done is done on nitrogen... what this crop really needs now is a drink."
Corn yields surveyed so far by this year's Tour have been above year-ago nearly across the board, but much of the improvement is due to the abysmal yields last year's drought produced.
Thomas Grisafi tweeted (@IndianaGrainCo) on Pro Farmer's Crop Tour page, "Note to farmers: you make money on selling grain, not growing it." That may be true, but without sufficient nitrogen, corn will not produce at its full potential, and you cannot sell grain you have not produced, this side of Wall Street. But Grisafi does highlight the solution if your N got away from you and your yield isn't quite what you had hoped.
Keep an eye on your ProFarmer.com for market guidance in uncertainty and realistic expectations for new-crop marketings. It will be a late harvest for a healthy chunk of the Corn Belt and if the National Weather Service is right, we may see significant pesky rain events as corn is coming out of the field. This will delay sales even longer as many growers will cut corn at 30% and allow it to dry down slowly in the bin. That could put us well into 2014 before advising any new-crop sales. However, if rain events delay harvest by muddying up fields, fears of Jack Frost paying a visit will mount and may elevate futures pricing.
The point here is to stay agile with your production and marketings. There will be years that allow simple, standard fertilizer applications, and years that offer simple, clear-cut marketing opportunities. This has not been one of those years so far. Those who had the good fortune of time enough to reapply nitrogen will come out ahead on yield. Whether that describes your situation or not, despite Dec corn's $4 handle, there will be opportunities to profit from whatever yield you may produce, and if N got away from you, there is still time to make up for a lagging yield with smart marketing.
Photo credit: D. Michaelsen, Inputs Monitor