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Answer to Worrying Questions for Corn Farmers This Year

Even though the weather was wonderful in most parts, there were several difficulties for corn farmers in 2014. For example, parts of Iowa experience heavy rain. There was a lot of disease. The price for crops fell and made 2014 less profitable. In light of these unfortunate events, many wonder what’s in store for 2015? Here are some answers to questions you may be asking

Is there sufficient seed?

Definitely. There were good conditions for growing both commodity and seed corn. However, if you’re looking to buy a hybrid that has high demand, put your order in early.

“There will not be an infinite supply,” Jeff Hartz, of Wyffels Hybrids, said.

Since the price of crops fell, did seed prices fall as well?

Unfortunately, no. But on the other hand, the prices are remaining stable.

“For the third year in a row, Wyffels prices overall are flat,” Hartz said. “New products and genetics are still at the top of the market and are up a few dollars, but 30% of our products took a 10% decline in price.”

The price of commodity corn doesn’t affect the price of seed corn very much, according to Hartz. A hybrid coming out in 2015 probably was starting to be developed six years ago. The investment in trait royalties and molecular breeding are part of their expense. So corn prices could be $3 or $7, but seed companies still need to pay for their investments. So sadly, a low year for commodity corn doesn’t change the price of seed. The companies understand, though, that the seed must be worth their investment as well. While seed used to cost around $90 per bag in the 2000s, seed now costs at least three times, if not four times, as much, according to extension agronomist Joe Lauer.

“Prices that differ by more than $50 to $100 per bag must be carefully considered, because it is difficult to make up the difference with increased yield,” Lauer said.

A simple way to save is to get in on an early-order discount. The same goes for investing in selective traits.

“In some areas of Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, the risk is too great to go without root worm protection,” said Hank King, a U.S. corn marketing leader for Mycogen Seeds. “There are areas with low root worm pressure. In these cases, products without a trait that resists corn root worm may be in order.”

Price shouldn’t be the only factor. Consider the potential yield when buying a hybrid, extension agronomist Jeff Coulter of encouraged.

From 2006 to 2013, the University of Minnesota conducted trials in Morris, Minnesota, to test different hybrids. The results showed between 45 and 67 bushel-per-acre of difference in yield between the top 10 hybrids and the bottom 10 hybrids. So it may be more expensive, in the long run, to invest in a lower yielding (but cheaper) hybrid.

What can we learn from 2014 to make 2015 better?

Don’t till when the fields are wet. It will simply cause impaired roots that will affect your crop for the rest of the year, according to A.J. Woodyard, a BASF technical service representative.

“Tillage operations under wet conditions can cause roots to grow horizontally instead of penetrating the soil profile,” he said.

Roots that are forced to grow horizontally can access water and nutrients as easily. In addition, compaction makes it more difficult for rain to penetrate the soil

“On gumbo soils, a vertical-tillage tool is less likely to create compacted layers,” Woodyard said.

If you have the right closing wheels, this will also help stop compaction when you plant.

“The biggest thing, though, is setting up for success,” he said.

So don’t start with a wet field.

What hybrid should I choose?

Many different hybrids.

“Planting a mix of hybrids is a tried-and-true, long-term philosophy that leads to success,” Hartz said.

Though looking at some top hybrids’ performance from last year, this may be advice you’re tempted to ignore.

“Farmers and seed companies have a good gauge of which products can really blow yield off the top end,” he said

However, it’s impossible to know if 2015’s conditions will be the same as 2014. It’s better to be prepared for the unknown with a diverse plan.

Do I need a fungicide to combat disease?

Disease was a major factor in 2014, so if 2015 is anything like last year, you will need a fungicide.

“This year, the number one disease in corn was gray leaf spot (GLS),” sayid Randy Myers, Bayer CropScience fungicide product manager.

This was surprising. Usually, GLS comes about during warm years – not cool summers like 2014’s summer.

Northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) was another disease that plagued crops. NCLB likes to hit in late summer, when temperatures are moderate (64-81 F) and the weather is humid. But in a cool, wet summer, NCLB might make its appearance sooner.
“This year, northern corn leaf blight started six weeks earlier than normal,” Myers said.

A wet and cool summer was perfect for NCLB, so some farmers utilized tasseling and R2 fungicides.

“Fourteen to 21 days later, if disease pressure remains high and if conditions are conducive to disease, another spray treatment can be beneficial,” Myers said. “Even at R5, disease can still impact corn yields.”

With corn selling for only $3 a bushel (and less), farmers are reticent to invest in fungicides. There is another option.

“You might do well to adopt a scout-and-spray philosophy, where you make a decision based on the disease situation at hand vs. a set plan at the start of the season,” said Mitch Heisler, agronomic marketing manager for Wyffels Hybrids

What should I do to deal with Goss’s Wilt?

Goss’s Wilt is a disease that started in Nebraska and is now spreading east through Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

As a bacteria, fungicides can’t touch it. There are Goss’s Wilt-resistant hybrids. Investing in such a hybrid is a good first step, according to agronomist Jim McDermott.

“Other techniques include rotating from corn to soy-beans,” he said. “Controlling residue through residue removal or tillage will also help break down the bacteria that causes Goss’s wilt.”

One comment

  1. If only I can decide which one to do first…

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