The NCAA tournament, where high-flying athletes run up and down the hardwood for the glory of their college, is a lot like a typical march through a crop-growing season.
Just like the hoopster hysteria of the tournament, U.S. farmers must defeat a multitude of foes in order to be the last one standing this fall. Any weakness will surely be revealed in agriculture’s months-long marathon of mayhem. Many times, painfully.
Bracket makers everywhere are placing their bets. Who are the foes that farmers will face? More importantly, how are they seeded? Here are my top eight seeds for the 2012 growing season.
Seeded No. 1 is the farmer. He is machine-like in his approach. Powerful, patient and well-coached, he has seen every make and manner of assault. He is the favorite because he makes timely adjustments as the season wears on. He juggles opportunity, luck and expertise to defeat his foes.
No. 2 is Weather. She is alternately meek and violent. She can give up a huge bounty one minute and take it all away the next. She is aimless and unpredictable, but wins because she is simply a powerful force.
No. 3 is Input Costs. This character plays a game within a game. Input Costs seem to rise or fall to the level of the competition. He’s not a threat to win the game – to do so would be counterproductive – but he pushes the farmer’s creativity to the limit.
No. 4 is Glyphosate-Resistant Pigweed. Nasty, swarming, they are like 40 minutes of hell stretched into 5 months. They do not win in overtime, or in a squeaker. Their goal is to completely dominate, to choke their opponent into submission. All it takes is one bad call and the game is over.
No. 5 is The Market. A farmer can do everything right during the season. Defeat weather, weeds, insects and disease. But he can fail in the championship game if prices don’t cover his cost of production. The Market is a psychological foe who makes farmers play tight, uncertain of when to take a shot.
No. 6 is Insects. They are rarely completely defeated, only controlled. But if you look past them, they will eat your lunch.
No. 7 is Disease. Disease does his work behind the scenes and underground, attacking fundamental processes. He rarely wins the game, but he can sap your energy.
No. 8 is Outside Forces. Environmental special interests and some governmental agencies are constantly looking to change the rules of the game to suit their style. If you don’t watch out, they may even change them at halftime.
So there you have it. The top eight seeds of this summer’s march to harvest. Good luck, farmers! Game on.