The road to a top-yielding corn crop may be different in 2015 as growers look at their balance sheets and start making trait decisions.
Farming is all about getting the right return on investment for every tool you use whether it be a new tractor or the latest hybrid seed. The challenge for corn farmers in 2015 is that a 40% drop in the price of corn has changed the ROI equation for a lot of operations and will force you to rethink hybrid trait selection too.
"That's exactly what's going through people's minds," says Jeff Hartz, who heads up marketing at Wyffels Hybrids. "There's never been a time where it has become so important to place different technology across the same farm."
That's the challenge ahead. The biotech trait packages are out there, the key is to match them with your farm's growing conditions, pest pressures and even the markets you sell to in an effort to match hybrid to field.
We spoke with leading seed companies and across the board the first step is to select the top-yielding elite hybrids best suited for your farm. It's the most effective way to boost yields and the investment is the same for a middle-level hybrid and a top-yielder. "That's square one for me - pick the right genetic chassis," says Duane Martin, product lead, commercial traits, Syngenta.
That top-yielding hybrid may need specific native traits for your farm - perhaps Goss's wilt resistance, or natural resistance to other pest pressures. Another factor that comes into play are elite genetics that include non-biotech drought tolerance traits.
DuPont Pioneer offers Aquamax and Syngenta offers Artesian. "We had a wet year this year," says Brad Van Kooten, senior marketing manager, DuPont Pioneer. "This year we saw rainfall was plentiful, and we have a fantastic crop, will next year be as good?"
Drought tolerance, including the biotech trait DroughtGard from Monsanto, may be part of the mix. Van Kooten notes that in 2014 farmers planted 10 million acres of corn with hybrids that included Aquamax. This is insurance that may be worth the investment against what has become a range of variable crop years.
Once you've lined up the top genetics for your region, the real work begins.