Weather is always one of the variables in a farming operation, and taking a long-term view is helpful in making decisions. However, creating a five-year average could cause a headache.
From extreme droughts to flooding, the past five years have shown a penchant for being unpredictable. While long-term forecasting can give an idea of what may occur in the upcoming season, when choosing a seed variety, being prepared for any outcome may be the best bet.
“We try to promote genetic diversity,” Golden Harvest technical agronomist Adam Mayer said. “We promote not putting all your eggs in one basket as far as a hybrid or hybrid family. That combats some of that risk that can come into play with weather or climate in general.”
Keeping an eye on trial data from these past seasons is also important, Mayer said.
“A product that did well this year and last year will provide the probability of having success in the future as well,” Mayer said.
Despite the wide variations in the weather in recent years, Dekalb Asgrow technical agronomist Lance Tarochione advised not completely throwing out the numbers. He agreed with Mayer that a variety’s recent performances should hold plenty of weight.
“Multi-year data is always a really good place to start,” Tarochione said. “I like to see product performance over two or three years because every year is different. Weather has always been extreme and variable. No matter what product you choose, if there is a horrible drought, yields aren’t going to be as good.”
As producers look at diversification, that can also come in the form of short- or long-season maturities. Mayer said a shorter-season variety can reduce some of the risk depending on a producers’ geography and can also help with costs such as drying and give a different harvest window. However, a shorter-season variety might not have the same yield potential.
“I’ve got a few growers that will push maturity because they have a dryer and they can use that,” Mayer said.
“This year was showing where genetic gain by maturity was playing out. That happens in a year where we have what I consider a full season. The later-maturity corn was definitely better (in 2020), but that’s the risk of going with a shorter variety.”
As farmers make a plan moving into 2021, trying to guess what kind of weather will define the season is difficult, which is why Tarochione continued to emphasize diversification in the field.
“You can’t really plan for drought or flooding,” he said. “We go into every year planning on next year being the best year we’ve ever had. If you go into next year hedging your bets against the drought, you’re going to pick the wrong products and really restrict yourself.
“We’ve got tools with crop insurance to protect ourselves from weather events, and hybrid selection isn’t the way to protect yourself from extreme weather events like extreme flooding and wind events.”