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Grain Producers Eager To Play Ball

Forgive the corny analogy, but in many ways, Crop Production Week and the corresponding Western Canadian Crop Production Show can be likened to a baseball game.

Thousands of producers flock to the trade shows and to the meetings during early January just like the crowds gather for a ball game.

The game has nine innings. Nine months from now, the 2011 growing season will be in the history books, unless it goes to extra innings, which can sometimes happen.

One of the biggest threats is that the game will have to be called on account of wet weather. It’ll be a few months (innings) before producers know their situation for sure, but many may again be facing fields that are too wet to play ball. Hopefully, their game can just be postponed and won’t have to be cancelled.

On the land where a crop can be seeded, there’s going to be more incentive than usual to swing for the fence. The elements are in place for home runs and maybe even grand slams should grain prices continue rising.

At this time of the year, producers in many Prairie regions are often worried about drought, making them wary about investing too much in inputs. That certainly isn’t the situation this year.

Other than too much moisture, there’s very little reason to let land sit fallow. You can’t perform if you’re sitting on the bench.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture isn’t even publishing a soil moisture map. There’s a long history of mapping subsoil moisture levels as of November 1 and that map is usually released around this time. Since virtually the entire grain belt has good to excessive subsoil moisture, there’s little variation to document.

With lots of moisture, there’s more incentive to use higher rates of fertilizer to achieve top yields. There’s also more interest than usual in fungicides. The wet weather of 2010 produced record disease levels within many crops. Producers are likely to invest more money hoping to prevent double header losses.

Good equipment is needed to accomplish timely seeding, spraying and harvesting operations. With the bright outlook, many producers will be looking to bolster their equipment bullpen and will be checking out equipment at the crop show.

Players aim to tag all the bases and that means having your entire agronomic and marketing package planned. For many, that planning starts this week.

Of course, when you’re trying to hit the big home run, you have more on the line and it’s even more painful if you happen to strike out. A win is never assured. Weather is always a big wild card. And as we’ve seen in recent years, market access to major customers can be disrupted due to a variety of factors.

In many previous years, when moisture was doubtful and/ or the grain price outlook was disappointing, producers have come to Crop Week just looking for ways to get a base hit. In fact, some years, they would have been happy just to draw a walk. The game seemed fixed in advance with no way to emerge victorious.

These are more optimistic times.

The game will no doubt hold some surprises, but for now, it appears that player remuneration will remain strong. In fact, everyone associated with the game is doing pretty well. And the sport is a lot more entertaining when you can put together a winning streak.

Kevin Hursh is a consulting agrologist and farmer based in

Saskatoon. He can be reached at [email protected]

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