seed corn

A load of the first seed corn received at Linn Co-op in Linn County, Iowa, Oct. 4. The weather this past spring led many farmers to make changes to their seed selection as planting fell behind. 

ALBURNETT, Iowa — For farmers planting well into June, the situation meant altering plans at a moment’s notice. Their local seed dealer was adjusting right along with them.

“The later you get into the season, you are looking at switching hybrids,” said Kirk Sauer, Pioneer sales rep from Linn Coop. “As late as we were, it can really throw everything out of kilter.”

Sauer and Pioneer territory manager Matt Wilson said the weather led to some farmers changing seed plans as much as three times before the crop got in the ground this year.

“Even in 2008 with the flood, we had the crop planted before the high water,” Sauer said. “There’s never been the amount of hybrid or variety switching to the extent there was this year.”

After a wet spring slowed things down in fields, the first few days of October have been a wash for many areas in the Midwest, bringing flashbacks. However, the wet weather should not lead to knee-jerk reactions for 2020, Sauer said.

“That’s the last thing on my mind,” he said. “It all comes down to the right product on the right acre. You can’t assume Mother Nature. 2019 was historical. Will it happen again? I don’t know. But I can’t recommend a product based on that. We’ll be prepared if it arises.”

Iowa is not the only state that has been dealing with the odd growing season.

In Illinois, planting delays bled well into June with harvest just getting underway in many areas of the state. As of Sept. 29, 4% of the corn was harvested in Illinois, compared to 45% last year. Soybeans are also behind, with 1% harvested compared to last year’s 32%.

Dekalb Asgrow technical agronomist Erika Parker of Dwight, Illinois, said 2019 may not be the year on which to base many decisions.

“If we were doing weighted averages for past years, I don’t think I’d put this one as my heaviest,” she said. “That isn’t to say you can’t learn things from 2019. Look at multi-year data and look at how different hybrids react over years and different geographies. There is also something to be said by literally looking at crops this year. Soybeans are tricky and hard to read, but corn will tell you a story.”

She said the corn crop will show farmers how it reacted to different environments and how the different hybrids “spent their budget” — whether it was a focus on plant health or on grain fill.

“Just like some people learn how to budget in their teens and some in their 30s, different times in the growing season can impact hybrids differently too,” Parker said. “If we watched something this year and it didn’t handle the drought situation very well, then we know we don’t want to put it on sandier soils.”

Wilson said having some seed treatments has been beneficial for farmers this year, noting he has not seen much pythium on corn in his coverage area.

He said yield will always be the top concern of a farmer, but standability is something he notices producers going after in their crop.

Looking ahead, moisture in the soil bank could lead to potential seed issues next spring, said Charles Block, a seed pathologist for Iowa State University.

Block said one item to look out for before planting in 2020 is phomopsis, which was prevalent this past year. Also known as pod and stem blight, phomopsis is a fungus that shows up in wet conditions. A wet harvest leads to the fungus sticking around into the next planting season.

“Last year was the worst year I think I have ever seen for seed issues,” he said. “The germination was terrible on so much of it, it makes it so difficult to clean. It affects yield to some extent but quality more than anything else.”

The right fungicide can knock out the fungus. However, if there is a wet spring, the fungus could kill the seed.

As farmers are weighing their options for 2020, Wilson suggested farmers not wait too long to make their decisions. Wilson said that while the seed selection conversation is a “little slower” to start this season, seed orders now are right on pace this year even as farmers focus on harvesting.

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