The saying “it’s hard to get the big picture when you have such a small screen” arguably could apply to producers, especially this year, as they focus on all the challenges associated with the prolonged drought and other issues, says one economist.

Even so, these challenges should not detract farmers from looking ahead to the next big challenge: their fall and spring planting decisions, which could prove even more critical because of the lingering effects of this summer’s drought.

Precisely because of the drought, farmers may be dealing with seed shortages during the next few growing seasons — all the more reason why they should take special care with fall and spring planting decisions, says Max Runge, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System economist.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules associated with planting decisions, Runge says there are some rules of thumb farmers should employ as they look ahead to the next two seasons.

At the top of the list: cropping and rotation systems, which can alleviate producers of much of the strain associated with making decisions on the fly.

“It certainly helps if you have a cropping system or crop rotation,” he says. “Some of the best farmers I know have these in place, and most of them aren’t swayed by price fluctuations.

“They’re committed to these decisions on a long-term basis.”

Of equal value to producers are calculating production costs and paying special attention to anything that could enhance profitability.

“This conceivably could be anything — adopting some facet of precision farming technology or an irrigation system or implementing a new management practice,” Runge says.