Early March is often a period when soybean prices are very low. You can almost bet on it.

But when the tractors start rolling for the planting season, prices usually start moving higher. The 1989-97 Cash Soybean Seasonal Odds chart (see printed article) shows the average of how prices have moved during the last nine years.

Holding soybeans into January has worked 100% of the time, with an average price increase of 19 cents/bu. Prices were also higher at the end of January 1998, but only by 2-3 cents/bu.

February is a month when prices average a small increase of just 3 cents/bu, with only about 33% reliability. That means 66% of the time prices are lower at the end of February.

March is when the up move usually begins, with prices rallying an average of 15 cents - and an 89% reliability. Cash prices usually advance into May.

June-July is often a time of volatile prices, but, on average, cash prices usually drift lower into harvest.

The negative tone that often is sent in early March sets up good buying opportunities. If you need to buy soybean seed or are a livestock feeder who needs to book soybean meal, low prices in early March usually offer a great chance to get inputs locked in.

The end of March often is a time to consider making some cash and new-crop sales if a rally develops. Mark down where prices are on March 9 and two weeks later, on March 23, and see if the pattern works again this year.

For soybean farmers, the first week in March is often a good time to replace earlier cash sales with long futures or call options. If you've sold all or most of your cash soybeans, and want to maintain ownership, consider this strategy: Buy back 50% of what you've sold in the July Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures or call-option market on Monday, March 9. Add to the position if the July futures close on Friday, March 13, is above the March 6 close.

Be prepared to liquidate one-third of your position in mid-April, one-third in mid-May, and close out all remaining long positions between June 12 and June 19.

If you don't trade futures or options, and still have beans in your bins, be sure to make cash sales during each of those key periods, and remember for next year that the end of February to early March is usually one of the worst times to make cash sales.