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Farmers focus on what they can control

Throughout harvest all farmers have something in common: radio time.

It's similar for agronomists, as we are in vehicles most of the day soil sampling or still field scouting. I'm sure some operators have new technology inside the cab allowing Bluetooth to play favorite songs or music genres from their phone. I still think for many of us, though, it is mostly AM talk radio.

News, weather, markets and sports is what we are after. Most of the news lately has been tied to the hurricanes in the Carolinas and the drama attached to the Supreme Court justice nominee. Markets haven't been ideal to listen as much of that is tied to the "news" about the current tariff situation and the horrible basis our farmers are facing. Weather has certainly changed. The hot sunny days that let us breeze through cereal harvest seem long gone, and we are now faced with more cloudy days and cool temperatures with off-and-on rain again. There are many soybeans to be harvested yet along with a few edible beans. Sunflower harvest has started for some and corn will be starting soon.

When listening to sports talk radio, we are looking for more entertainment and a break from the challenges of the day. We want information on our favorite teams, and often times we get to hear from the coaches that provide insight into their victories, what happened during a loss, injury updates, and what the opponent looks like the following week. Two phrases that are common among most coaches are, "I'm only worried about today," and when talking about their players and injuries we hear, "Next man up."

Through previous articles I've written, you're aware of the sports analogies I lean on. These two really fit with agriculture right now. Farmers are focusing on what they can control today. The basis situation has affected all of us, and we need to manage through it.

The main management tool is on-farm storage. I know many farmers that have put soybeans in their equipment shed, rented the neighbor's bagger machine, and have cleaned out and serviced bins that haven't been used for two decades in efforts to keep their inventory on the farm.

Another issue farmers can control today is their fertilizer costs for 2019. While busy harvesting, farmers are receiving calls from their fertilizer retailers informing them of price increases, primarily on nitrogen. That call alone makes us create a more firm crop plan for 2019, determine how much nitrogen we are going to use and take a position on the nitrogen price, if we so choose.

The "next man up" concept can be looked at many ways in ag, put I prefer to look at it as "next crop up" or "next field up." The majority of farms I work with have four crops — some more, some less. This harvest season to date has allowed for minimal breaks between these crops. This year, barley and wheat got a nice early start and that led into edible beans and canola. Edible beans and canola have led into soybeans and sunflowers. There have already been a couple farms that have tried corn, but the majority of corn likely will start in a week or so.

Because of minimal breaks between crops, farmers use us to evaluate what the crop ahead looks like and what some of the expectations might be. Currently, we are focusing on corn and evaluating kernel stage, stalk strength and yield potential as inventory is already tight with the soybean issue.

Continue to have a safe harvest and fall fertilizer season.