MOORHEAD, Minn. – The 2021 drought was a stressor to crops. Fortunately, the very best seed, seed treatments, crop protection products and agronomic practices helped corn and soybeans survive until rain arrived.
FIRST trials throughout the Red River Valley showed yields were generally better than expected.
“Overall, everybody was pleasantly surprised with yields, but it definitely had a lot to do with being lucky enough to get a few timely rains,” said Luke Brendemuhl, RRV FIRST manager.
FIRST provides timely, unbiased comparisons of innovative seed genetics to improve yield and profitability for corn and soybean farmers.
Brendemuhl managed two FIRST corn grain regions – Red River Central N.D. and Minn. (RRCE), and Red River South N.D. and Minn. (RRSO).
In the RRCE region, 32 full-season test products (86-90-day CRM) and 32 early-season test products (80-85-day CRM) were entered into the FIRST trials.
The top 30 full-season hybrids across four field sites ranged from an average high of 214.3 bushels per acre (bpa) to 166 bpa.
Early-season tests for the top 30 hybrids across four field sites ranged from an average high of 202.1 bpa to 145.6 bpa.
“For tillage, we noted that on no-till conditions, yields were better. That was probably due to more moisture at planting,” Brendemuhl said. “With conventional till, you were ending up planting in real dry conditions.”
Heavier soils helped the crops survive through hot and dry conditions, he added.
In the RRSO region, the full-season corn trial had 40 test products (91-95-day CRM), while the early-season corn trial had 37 products (85-90-day CRM).
The top 30 full-season hybrids across five field sites ranged from an average high of 254.1 bpa to a low 210.2 bpa.
Early-season tests for the top 30 hybrids across five field sites ranged from an average high of 232.3 bpa to 194.9 bpa.
“I would say, in the RRSO, they overall had more rain than my central and north region, and just more timely rains,” he said.
Going against the drought grain, the Litchville, N.D., site received above-average rainfall and experienced a few drown outs.
Brendemuhl added that all the FIRST harvested corn was high quality with an average test weight around 59 pounds per bushel.
FIRST soybean trials
Brendemuhl managed three FIRST soybean regions across the Red River Valley – Red River Central N.D. and Minn. (RRCE); Red River South N.D. and Minn. (RRSO); and Red River North N.D. and Minn. (RRNO).
As the furthest north FIRST trial in the United States, 53 soybean varieties were tested in the RRNO region. Maturities ranged from 00.7-0.4. Average yields for the top 30 varieties ranged from a high of 55.9 bpa to a low of 46.6 bpa at three sites. One site was not included in the data due to extreme drought.
In the central (RRCE) region, 71 varieties, 0.2-0.9 maturity, were tested with the average yields for the top 30 ranging from a high of 58.5 bpa to a low of 53.8 bpa at four sites.
In the south (RRSO), 43 varieties were tested with a maturity of 1.0-1.4. The top 30 averaged a high of 75.5 bpa to a low of 66.6 bpa.
Another 44 varieties were tested with a maturity of 0.6-0.9. Yields within the top 30 entries ranged from a high of 71 to a low of 66.2 bpa. Three sites were averaged for this data.
Along with high quality, individual soybean seed size was larger than average, he said, which added to the overall yield.
Spider mites and grasshoppers were common in 2021, Brendemuhl said. “Our farmers did an excellent job spraying for bugs this year, so that didn’t have any issues in our final harvested data.”
He added that his crew sprayed for weeds in the FIRST soybean plots.
“It was a bit challenging this year, just because of the dry soil conditions, and the delayed emergence,” he said. “There were some plots we had to go out and spray multiple times.”
He added that canopy coverage was delayed, which allowed some weeds to become established. By dutifully spraying, weed control was successful.
Iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC) was an issue in the southern Red River Valley region. The data from one plot near Wolverton was rejected because of severe loss to IDC. Early in the growing season, Brendemuhl observed many of the varietal strips at that site were yellow, but here and there, a variety remained dark green. Those green soybean plants were also much taller than the IDC-affected varieties.
Overall, the 2021 growing season offered a lot of lessons in raising crops in a hot and dry year.
Many farmers observed that the crop roots burrowed deep while plentiful sunshine helped with vegetative and grain/oilseed development. Most of the crops didn’t wilt despite the lack of rain.
The deciding factor for low vs. average or high yields was generally the presence of any rain at all. Even a small amount of rain – a tenth of an inch or even a heavy dew, coupled with a few rains of a half inch or more – allowed the crops to survive until heavy rains arrived in late July or early August.
Although November and early December remained mostly dry, the rain in August and September likely recharged the subsoil moisture. Brendemuhl is looking forward to seeing what products the seed companies enter for the 2022 FIRST trials across his region.
Corn and soybean production continues to expand west. Brendemuhl encourages any N.D. farmers who are interested in hosting plots to contact him. There’s also a place at firstseedtests.com to sign up to host a test plot.
“Over the years, the early-maturing products are being developed and perfected,” he said. “Especially in the northern region, corn and soybeans are becoming more prominent.”
To reach Luke Brendemuhl, call 218-790-4497, e-mail him at email@example.com, or write him at 4032 120th Ave N, Moorhead, Minn., 56560.
All FIRST seed test results are published in an easy-to-read format at firstseedtests.com.