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By Staff | Sep 2, 2011

One of the signs we watch for every spring is the sighting of the first robin to let us know winter is done and spring has arrived.

I would say a sign that summer is ending and fall is close is the sighting of the first combines that are sitting outside. They are parked outside having been removed from the shed where they were parked at the end of last fall’s harvest.

I have seen a couple combines in the past weeks that are outside in full view waiting to be prepared for the approaching harvest. To me, seeing them is just as significant as last spring’s first robin.

We know there is a crop out there because we have had our eyes on it all summer. Your rainfall amounts and your soil’s ability to hold water is showing now as the crop is changing from dark green to those shades of tan and brown.

The growing season is coming to an end. It is easy to spot every light spot of soil in a field as the brown plants are surrounded by green ones. Eventually, everything will turn to tan and the field will be one color, regardless of moisture capacity.

It seems everyone is in about the same shape with something to harvest and no, it will not be as good as last year. There were too many extremes this year.

I believe most everyone started out too wet and ended too dry. That is an understatement when considering the floods along the Missouri River and heat in the South where there were wildfires.

Yes, this year’s crop will be less than expected and the question is by how much.

In following last week’s crop tour, I read that there were people on the tour doing the sampling who did not have an agriculture background. They had no interest in tractors or combines but needed information because their future decisions depended on knowing the size of the crop.

Among those sampling and taking a front row seat in the estimating the crop size were employees of hedge funds, those companies whose participation in the market we farmers have come to love or hate, depending if the market is going up or down.

I also read there was a delegation from China accompanying the crop tour. Their interest was in determining crop size because they want to plan their future purchases as they import grain to feed their country.

This is a big change from less than 10 years ago when corn was around $2 a bushel and part of our strategy was to see how we could maximize our government loan deficiency payment to squeeze another few cents per cents per bushel for income.

Today, the price of corn is what I used to hope I would get for my soybeans. A year ago, I was looking at $10 a bushel for soybeans in amazement and today that $10 looks cheap.

Farming is noted for going from boom to bust regardless of the commodity, whether is it is grain, meat, or dairy products. There is no doubt we are in the boom times now.

If there is a bust coming, no one seems to know when or how much. Now that would be valuable information.

It is a roller coaster ride. We will enjoy the ride as it ascends to the highs and hang on as it zooms to the lows, hoping when the ride is done we can walk away smiling.

Our combine will be out of the shed Labor Day weekend. Away we go. Hold on tight.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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