Short and long-term planning for spring planting

With the new year off and running farmers can begin in earnest to plan what they will plant this spring.

Actually in today’s agriculture much of the planning in terms of cropping choices is longer term in nature, with what will be grown on a specific piece of land often predicated by what was grown there the previous years, the chemicals used in the previous years, and the plan for the land in the future.

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But a plan needs to be flexible in terms of cropping options because there are a number of variables well beyond the ability of the producer to control which can come into play between harvest and planting each cropping cycle.

The most obvious, of course, is the weather.

Last fall across most of the Canadian Prairies the harvest season was extended to the first snowfall for many producers by unusual weather.

The extended harvest will mean many producers did not get the prep work for 2019 carried out that is usual in terms of post-harvest, pre freeze up operations including fertilizer applications and straw control. Those operations will now be pushed to this spring for many, adding extra pressure for the weather to be good in the prime weeks for seeding.

If the weather does not cooperate, what producers will plant is likely to change if a time crunch transpires.

It’s the same scenario in terms of moisture conditions.

The fall was extended by rain, but in most areas we are not talking a deluge. Rather it was constant showers that stopped harvest.

So far this winter, snow conditions are not excessive either.

What will that mean for moisture conditions in the spring?

That remains to be seen as a lot of snow can fall from mid-January to whenever winter decides to come to an end, and of course, significant early springs rains might come our way as well.

Past the always present impact of weather on cropping decisions, farmers have to be watching the business news these days to see exactly what might transpire in terms of international trade because of politics.

Politics has become the real bugaboo for farmers.

At one time politics influenced the farm sector when countries fought for trade market share with subsidies that put a wrench into the works of normal supply and demand economics.

Today the situation is less about subsidies and more about sanctions.

The issue, of course, is that the current sanctions which pop up to often impact the movement of farm products are not directly related to agriculture; an example being China in a snit over the arrest of a Huawei executive in Canada on a U.S. warrant which has that country threatening Canada with sanctions which could include limiting agricultural trade.

With such uncertainties in play, producer planting plans may be set today, but could well need adjustments before the wheels turn in the spring.