Waiting for parts is not what any farmer wants to do when they’re gearing up for spring planting. Presho, S.D., no-tiller Adam Ehlers, has encountered delays due to COVID-19.
Ehlers farms 4,000 acres of winter wheat, spring wheat, sunflowers, milo and soybeans, and recently purchased his first planter. It’s a used 36-row Case IH 1260 Early Riser planter pulled by an articulated Case IH Steiger STX 430.
“It’s been quite the transition,” he says. “It’s as big as our 90-foot pull-type sprayer.”
Ehlers has ordered some vacuum seals, an extractor arm and an aftermarket Precision Planting SeedSense monitor for his 36-row Case IH 1260 — and he’s still waiting for the parts.
“The guy from Precision told me the parts were on their way, but it seems like it’s taking forever,” he adds. “I was told all ordering has been backed up because of the virus.”
That’s not good news when 70 degree days are becoming more frequent in southern South Dakota — and the window to plant soybeans is opening.
“I was going to plant corn for the first time, but when corn prices hit $2.65, I switched back to sunflowers,” he says. “I think corn will hit $2 before it gets back to $3. Ethanol plants were keeping basis strong, but now, with $20 crude oil, ethanol plants are shutting down. Corn can go direct to feed, but with cattle prices low right now, I think there’s going to be a huge oversupply of corn.”
While many growers are worried about the end markets for soybeans and corn, Ehlers says that specialty crops have a better profit margin.
“I’m thankful we use a rotation here, so we have more options,” he says. “With specialty crops, the prices might drop, but not as much as with corn or soybeans.”
Something as simple as a spring snowstorm on the East Coast can influence sunflower prices, Ehlers says.
“After a snowstorm, everyone goes out and buys birdseed,” he says. “If they’re quarantined, they might not feed the birds. Milo is also sold in birdseed, and it’s selling for a good price right now.”
Although North Dakota is the top producing state for sunflowers, the state’s sunflower crop was hit hard last year by a mold that disintegrated the sunflower heads.
Ehlers says that sunflowers are the best cash crop for him. He says he hopes to someday grow corn, but may have to wait a while until the price comes back.