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To plant? Or not to plant?

By Frederick Springborn
 
As the crop insurance final plant date for corn, June 5, has now passed, corn growers in central Michigan who have not completed planting should weigh their options. The primary options are take a Prevented Plant Claim on a Crop Insurance Policy, or continue planting through the late planting period, which ends June 25, or switch acres to soybeans or another crop.
 
The first consideration should be: Can a crop be successfully produced and marketed if planted? This is a question that is difficult to answer and depends on a number of factors.
 
Is seed of appropriate maturity available? When will soils be dry enough to plant? Will the rest of the growing season’s weather be favorable for rapid growth and ultimately maturity of the crop? These are questions that need to be considered individually based on your specific soil types, amounts of rainfall received and the predicted weather for the rest of the growing season.
 
There is data available from a variety of sources from late planting experiments that should be considered; however, remember that the late plantings made in previous years were likely made into warm, moist soils, not relatively cool and marginally wet soils that many will be dealing with in June of 2019, so it is necessary to consider all of the variables when making your decision.
 
If the crop is unsuccessful due to an early freeze or other adverse weather event, what options will be available? Can it be harvested as forage and fed to livestock? What are your crop insurance options at that point?
 
Switching acres to soybeans is an option. Consider the previous 2018 crop on those acres. If you switch to soybeans for the 2019 crop will you have acres with back-to-back soybean crops and how might that affect disease, nematode and other production issues in the future?
 
Switching acres to dry beans or another specialty crop is an option for some. However, regardless if it is dry beans or any other crop—pickles, buckwheat, sorghum or lily pads—carefully consider the market before committing to producing the crop. Talk with your crop insurance representative about your options. You may be able to file a Prevented Plant Claim now and withdraw it later if an opportunity to plant arises.
 
The Market Facilitation Program may be a factor in the planting decision. Consider the possibility that rules can change and there are groups advocating for changes to what was announced in May.
 
Disaster Relief Programs could also be a factor in the decision as the flooding in the Midwest continues. These programs are not yet finalized.
 
Consider possible benefits of having acres open due to Prevented Planting. Soil amendments can be applied such as lime and manure; wet fields in need of tile drainage installation or tile repair can be accomplished; cover crops can be established; deep tillage work when soil conditions are adequate can be done.
 
Many are looking at the markets and seeing the rise in corn prices and some growers I talk to are beginning to speculate as to how much higher the price could go. There are other means to speculate on the future value of corn or soybeans including trading futures and options on the Chicago Board of Trade as well as continuing to store physical commodity. The decision to continue to plant corn should be based on successfully producing a crop here in central Michigan.