Field Damage

Wet spots left gaps in fields as farmers struggled to plant during spring 2019. After two years of rain, farmers may be looking at varieties for 2020 that help them manage through a wet planting season.

For many producers, the 2019 planting season didn’t go as expected.

As the calendar flipped to May then June, many acres across the Midwest were left soaked and unplanted, causing farmers to alter their 2019 seed choices.

Jeremy Miner, technical agronomist with Kruger Seeds, said he worked with farmers who were starting to get antsy in early May and wanted to move to some shorter-season varieties in corn and soybeans. However, he said he advised most to wait until after Memorial Day to make any significant changes to their plan.

He said Kruger’s agronomists were discouraging farmers from making a shift from 110-day corn to a shorter variety, citing that fields may not be properly prepared and it would significantly alter their timeline, potentially affecting yield.

“We really had to get guys wrapped around the idea that they were in a good spot and you picked these varieties for a reason,” Miner said. “We encouraged guys to just stick with their plans, and the same goes for soybeans.”

When Memorial Day passed, they did start to suggest some changes in corn hybrids. Soybean maturity choices were generally safe until mid-June.

With such a volatile planting season, farmers looking ahead to 2020 shouldn’t overreact.

“What we go through this year shouldn’t affect how we make decisions for 2020 or 2021 going forward,” said Chris Kallal, territory agronomist for DeKalb Asgrow in central Illinois. “I don’t think anyone will want to plan for another year like this.

“In 2017 and 2018 some guys had the best soybeans they’ve ever had. This is a dose of a reality check, but I don’t think that should drive us into making decisions impacting next year.”

Kallal said agriculture has a short memory — farmers build plans off of what just happened instead of taking what he called a more “holistic” approach.

He suggested farmers make future plans based on a multi-year history to get a better picture of the conditions that could occur over the next few growing seasons.

Soybeans

Kallal said “high yields and clean fields” are what everyone wants out of their seed choices.

For soybeans, Miner said the big factor when choosing a variety is what diseases a farmer is most likely to face.

The next yield robber is weeds. With a year like 2019, some farmers were unable to get spraying done ahead of time. That is where being able to use a variety tolerant to dicamba or other herbicides has helped his growers, Miner said.

“Instead of a disease issue, now it’s a weed issue,” Miner said. “The past couple of years, we’ve seen a huge increase in guys who have benefited from this program — having dicamba as an option. We are killing a lot more weeds.”

Kallal said this year he saw soybean farmers eyeing more stress tolerance when they had the option. With hotter and dryer conditions, having stability in a lower-yielding environment was important to farmers who made late switches.

However, he said 2020 and beyond might see a different focus.

While high yield potential will always be important, he said they are trying to push the envelope on early planting — even planting soybeans before planting corn. He also said focusing on quality disease packages and standability is essential.

Corn

Corn in Illinois is in varying stages this summer, Kallal said, with planting windows coming in early April through early June.

After a strong 2018 crop, he said there is still optimism for corn in 2019 after the lengthy planting season. In 2020, he hopes things can get back to normal.

Similar to their approach on soybeans, he said agronomists plan to not let the 2019 season impact their approach to seed genetics.

“First and foremost we are looking at yield, but we need solid agronomics that come along with that,” he said. “If you have tremendous yield you can’t protect or harvest, it’s a bad day.”

Miner said farmers may be looking at how to manage through a wet planting season next year after dealing with it the past two years. Combined with a wet fall in 2018 and the inability to properly prepare some fields, he said agronomics is more important than ever.

“Leaf diseases, like gray leaf spot or northern corn leaf blight, and even stalk diseases are really coming to the forefront for these guys,” Miner said. ”Guys are looking at agronomics really hard first, and yield is already factored into their decision.”