The number of corn hybrid and soybean technologies available to growers has never been greater. However, with an increased number of choices also comes a growing challenge in identifying which traits will provide maximum performance and yield in a grower's specific field conditions.
John Latham, president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, an independent family-owned seed company based at Alexander, Iowa, says growers should approach the seed selection process as they do their financial portfolio.
"When you outline a plan for your financial investments, you look for a good balance of high risk product and low risk bonds to protect yourself in a variety of economic situations," notes Latham. "Planting corn is very similar. You want to plan for balance, managing risk and securing performance against a number of unforeseen challenges, including insect and disease pressure, and weather."
He recommends that you look for a balance in maturity levels, genetics, and traits, then weigh those options against the trends you've identified in product performance in recent years.
Understanding genetics versus traits helps give you an advantage
"As an industry, we spend a lot of time focused on trait diversity, but genetics provide the performance advantage," says Latham. "Genetics make yield; traits protect yield."
Once a grower identifies the traits necessary for their growing conditions, above and/or below ground pests and weed control options, for instance, Latham says it's time to search for the strongest genetic package that delivers those traits.
Also important to remember is the role of genetics in the growing prevalence of corn-on-corn rotations. Growers planting corn-on-corn should plant high vigor genetics that can tolerate the increased disease pressure which can carry over on the past year's corn residue.
Identify product trends, and sort out the best performers for your fields
Making seed selections based on most recent experience could risk performance the following year due to the drastic changes in growing conditions from year to year. Latham recommends growers weigh the past three to five years' product performance when working to identify "best performers" in their fields.
"No two years will ever be the same," Latham observes. "In 2010, we received excessive rainfall, while this growing season, we experienced three weeks of 100 plus degree heat. Its imperative growers make seed selections based on trends in product performance to help ensure the right seed is placed in the right soil."
Putting field data to work, precision ag tools can help empower you
Precision agriculture tools have given us an immense amount of information on soil type, product performance and field conditions that can empower important farm operation decisions if this information is used effectively.
"In the past, we relied almost solely on the knowledge of the seed advisor and the valuable experience of the grower to identify the correct seed for a particular field," Latham says. "Now, we have a third invaluable resource in precision agriculture. Seed advisors can work with data collected from precision ag instruments to provide recommendations that tell growers exactly what seed to place at what population, with more precise guidance on fertilizer and nutrient management, as well. This ensures growers get the best performance from their seed and the largest possible return on their investment."
Refuge in a bag—a helpful new product development for corn growers
For years, the word refuge could bring on an unwelcome headache for corn growers throughout the country. Many growers did their best to comply with refuge regulations but still scratched their head at the end of the day, wondering if their field was in fact refuge compliant. Refuge in a Bag (RIB) is making the complex world of refuge simple, says Latham.
The RIB concept involves mixing the refuge seed with both the corn borer and rootworm insect protected corn seed, so growers have everything they need to be refuge compliant in just one bag. Growers are no longer required to weigh adjacent versus in-field configurations; they can simply open the bag and pour.
"The RIB product is exciting for seed companies and farmers alike," Latham notes. "It will make it easier to be compliant with EPA regulations. Now, farmers can plant their RIB products and know with certainty they're refuge compliant ? in the past they weren't able to do that with such confidence."
If you look at choosing RIB products, remember yield should come first
From Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, growers will be able to purchase the first single-bag RIB solution for the 2012 season: Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete Corn, a blend of 95% traited seed and 5% refuge seed. When growers begin looking to plant RIB products, it's important to remember that yield comes first, he points out. "Growers shouldn't have to plant a product that may have yield drag in order to receive all of the other great benefits that come with RIB. At Latham, we've found 5% products provide the simplicity wanted without sacrificing yield."According to Latham, whether it's making decisions on traits and genetics or weighing RIB products, the focus should remain on what will always be most important. "At the end of the day, it has to do with what is the right fit for a grower's farm," Latham says. "That will always be the first priority." For more tips on seed selection and information about RIB, visit www.thefieldposition.com