There are several factors to consider for matching the right seed to every field including history and weather extremes.
When it comes to how to manage your 2023 seed selection, the answer sounds lame but it’s simple, says Bob Nielsen, extension corn specialist and agronomy professor at Purdue University.
“There's no one specific trait or set of traits that allow that hybrid to perform well every year,” Nielsen says. “It's really the whole package of breeding that goes into these hybrids.”
Choose hybrids and varieties that have resistance to diseases and insects that you know are problems in your fields, he says.
“Obviously, we need good genetic yield potential on the hybrid,” Nielsen says. “But beyond that, what we need is the rest of the genetic package that simply provides those plants with a very good tolerance to a very wide and diverse set of stresses.”
As climate change continues, Nielsen explained, we’re seeing more erratic weather conditions from one year to another. It’s drought one year, and terribly hot the next, and hybrids are needed to tolerate drought, hot or wet weather, he says.
“It’s a big challenge for growers to identify these kinds of hybrids because again, you’re not looking for any specific traits, you’re looking at performance.”
The best way to evaluate that, according to Nielsen, is to look at the results of variety trials.
“Look for hybrids that are always near the top of those trials, no matter what location, no matter what set of growing conditions,” he explains.
“That's my challenge to growers, is whether you're visiting with seed companies, whether you're visiting with your university variety trial people, try to find the results of as many variety trials as you can possibly find.”
Evaluate hybrids’ performance every year after harvest and keep your own records. Many farmers are planting a collection of hybrids and running their own miniature trials, Nielsen says.
For a path going forward, know your field history, says Matt Essick, Pioneer agronomy manager, northern US.
“Take a look at field history first, see if there's anything unique about your individual fields, whether it's a particular disease such as white mold in soybeans, or Goss's wilt or tar spot in corn, and make sure that you select products that are tolerant as possible to those diseases,” says Essick.
In addition to white mold in soybeans, Essick says, "sudden death syndrome (SDS) is another important disease that we can manage through variety selection, plus seed treatments such as ILeVO."
Within a field, decide if you need a corn hybrid that has more drought tolerance or the ability to establish a stand in high-residue environments, for example. “Understand what the particular environment of that field is, so you can get the right products out there that can handle the growing season that you're going to face,” urges Essick.
Choose a portfolio of products to help spread your risk, says Dan Berning, Pioneer agronomy manager, Western Corn Belt. Identify priority needs for each field when it comes to traits or disease or drought tolerance levels in your corn hybrids and soybeans, he says.
“Protecting that seed investment with the best seed treatment packages that are out there really paid off in 2022,” Berning says.
For some, 2022 brought variability and extreme crop stress. Challenging planting conditions included dry and hard soils, or heavy residue that did not decompose much throughout a dry winter, he says. With those planting challenges, growers saw the value of seed treatments that helped through prolonged emergence environments.
Crops took longer than usual to develop good root systems. June brought near-record high temperatures in many areas, with crops stressed by drought that continued through the growing season. That showed growers which hybrids fared better, he says.
So, for 2023, drought tolerance is going to be a key seed trait for many growers, Berning says.
The Eastern Corn Belt saw the opposite situation, a little too wet in some cases, so growers are looking for products to better handle those environments, he says.
“Their last experience tends to be front of mind and weighted heavily as they’re thinking about decisions for the next year,” Berning says. But growers also need to keep in mind their long-term history and their expectations down to the individual field level, he says.
One of the best management strategies Pioneer recommends, Berning says, is to plant a portfolio of products with a spread in planting dates and maturities.
“Know what maturities you'd like to plant and spread out your harvest risk as well, and your pollination and or reproduction-stage risk, by selecting different maturities,” Essick agrees.
“If we're not careful, all our soybeans can be ready to harvest at the same time, and we lose yield potential because everything dries so fast. So, spreading your maturity risk in soybeans is a great idea to help with harvest planning. With corn’s reproductive stages, it's similar; spread your maturity risk.“
Soybeans flower over a long period, Essick notes, but on corn, if everything flowers within two- to three-day window, and you happen to hit the most stressful part of the growing season, that’s not good. “A spread in flowering dates for corn can maximize your risk protection against negative weather such as a real hot period, or a really dry period, right during pollination.”
Know yield goals so you can select the right products to fit your fields, Essick says. If you’ll need to harvest a particular field later, for example, choose a product that provides strong stalks, especially for corn.
“On the corn,” he says, “it's nice to have some products that have extremely good staygreen plant health, so you can ensure that your harvest window’s a little bit longer there, too.”
This content produced by Farm Progress for Corteva Agriscience.