Except for about three out of the last 35 years, the cardinal sin when marketing wheat is not to have sold all the wheat by Dec. 31. Price-wise, it makes little difference when or how wheat is sold as long as it is sold between April and Dec. 31 of the harvest year.

Average prices based on 14 different wheat marketing strategies dating from June 1986 through December 2008 are maintained. Research shows that there is no statistical difference in the average price received between 12 of the 14 strategies.

The average prices received from storage hedges, which use the KCBT December futures contracts or which use December put option contracts, are significantly less than the other 12 strategies' average prices.

Five marketing strategies are discussed below: forward contracting on April 15; selling all wheat on June 20; selling wheat on Oct. 15; selling wheat on Nov. 15; or selling one-third of the wheat in June, October and November. With forward contracting, it is assumed that one-half of expected production is forward contracted in April and the other one-half is sold at harvest.

Many producers think that they botched marketing wheat in 2007 and/or 2008 (Table 1). In 2007, wheat prices were relatively low at harvest and trended up during the marketing year. In 2008, wheat prices were relatively high at harvest and trended down.

Results show that selling wheat on Oct. 15 netted the highest price in 2007. (Note: wheat prices peaked on March 12, 2008. This analysis assumed that all wheat was to be sold before Dec. 31.) Selling wheat at harvest netted the highest price in 2008.

When evaluating the average of the 2007 and 2008 prices, selling at harvest netted the highest price. Selling wheat in one-third units netted the second highest average price.

Not only were prices drastically different in 2007 and 2008, yields were also different. Yields in 2007 averaged about 28 bushels per acre compared to 2008 average yields of 38 bushels.

The highest average gross income ($225) was obtained by selling at harvest (Table 2). Selling wheat in one-third lots and forward contracting in April both produced an average income of $218.

Market analysts will tell you that decisions should not be based on one or two year's information. The June 1986 through December 2008 average price for each of the marketing strategies is show in Table 1.

Average prices received from selling wheat at harvest ($3.43), selling wheat on Oct. 15 ($3.43), or selling one-third of the wheat in June, October and November ($3.42) are about equal. Forward contracting wheat in April ($3.38) or selling wheat in November ($3.37) produced about the same average price.

Depending on the length of years used, the strategy producing the highest average price changes. When using a 10-year average price for each strategy (not shown in a table), the highest average price was selling in October ($3.83). Selling at harvest averaged $3.80. Selling in one-third lots averaged $3.81.

The point is that producers tend to get caught up in and lose sleep over the timing of selling wheat. The market works and over time, prices will average out. Contrary to what some people want you to think, you cannot influence price.

What you can influence is production practices, how you manage finances, and the use of inputs. Producers may save more in fertilizer costs by using soil test or enriched strips than trying to time the market.

Having a strategy, within reason, may be more important than the strategy itself.