“I follow the Ronnie Lumpkins plan,” he explained, after hanging up and relating that corn prices had jumped a bit, the result of a Japanese buying spree, he thought. Good news, since he had a good portion of the excellent 2003 crop still in his on-farm storage bins.

“The wheat market also had a big run,” he said, “but it fell off considerably in October.”

Regardless of the ups and down of the market, he stays with his plan, which is: “I sell one-third of expected production on Oct. 1,” he said. ‘I sell one-third on Feb. 1, and I sell the last one-third June 1.”

He said that by Oct. 1, he’d know how much wheat he’s likely to plant. “If we have had good weather, I know I’ll have one-third of my crop planted,” he said.

“By Feb. 1, I know if conditions have been good or not, and can anticipate how much at least two-thirds of a crop will be. And by June 1, the wheat is made.”

Lumpkins said he’s followed this marketing strategy for ten years. “Records show it’s a pretty reliable system. I will not hit the market high, but I won’t hit the low either. I just get a good average price.”

Staying with a strict schedule “takes the emotion out of marketing wheat,” Lumpkins said.

In late October, Lumpkins, who farms in Hunt and Fannin Counties, up in the Northeast corner of Texas, was well along in seeding the 2003-04 crop. “Like many other farmers in this area, I’ll probably plant wheat until the window closes,” he said. “October brought ideal planting conditions and the soil was in great shape. “A lot of us will keep planting this fall until it gets too wet.”

Getting as much wheat planted as possible gives him some assurance of maintaining grain acreage. “The window may not be open when it’s time to plant corn,” he said, “so we’ll get as much wheat in the ground as we can.”

Lumpkins plants wheat for both the seed and commercial markets. “I drill the seed wheat and use a blower truck to scatter commercial wheat,” he said. “I may use a higher seeding rate with the blown wheat, up to 120 pounds per acre. I have gone as high as 150 pounds.”

He said good coverage is a key for October planting. “I’ll cover commercial wheat with a harrow. I am a bit more careful with the high dollar wheat seed, so I drill it in.”

Lumpkins said a good one to one-and-a-quarter inch rain would be good for the fall wheat.

He’s looking for a better way to fertilize wheat. “I think deep fertilizer placement may be the key to getting to the next yield level,” he said. “We need a simple way to apply it. We’re getting fertilizer into a zone 6 to 8 inches deep but I’d like to get phosphate even deeper. But we have no good way to get it down further and no equipment to apply it. That could be a crucial research need for Northeast Texas wheat producers.”

Lumpkins said putting fertilizer deeper will encourage deeper root systems.”

A better production system will improve yields and provide more grain for the Lumpkins marketing plan.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com