DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – Every year of farming is another year of data on a field – more information for growers to use to select next year’s plant genetics. This past season may have left growers with more questions than answers as they sit down to plan for the 2020 season.

“The saying is ‘this is a time one should never forget,’ but I think this year was the year we hope to forget,” said Jon Barrett, Golden Harvest corn product manager. “From a corn standpoint, it was really variable, especially across Minnesota. You had guys that were able to get in on time, able to get it harvested on time and yields were looking pretty good. Others were not so fortunate.”

There were plenty of farmers, on both corn and soybeans, who were delayed at planting and then delayed again at harvest. In some areas of the Midwest, corn is still standing in the field mid-way through December.

The challenge for growers is to now wade through the information that was collected.

“The good news is we definitely got to see how hybrids performed in both tough environments and in good environments at the same time,” Barrett said. “From a data standpoint, we’re able to prove some of our key hybrids and have confidence in how they're going to perform no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.”

To see what hybrids really did work well in a specific area, Golden Harvest offers the E-Luminate digital seed placement tool. This digital platform allows growers to see field data for crops grown specifically in their area including field maps, soil data, weed, disease and insect pressures.

Disease continues to be an important topic, particularly with soybean selection.

“Sudden death syndrome (SDS) continues to move further north every year. There were areas where white mold was a factor as well,” said Mike Tollefson, Golden Harvest soybean product placement scientist. “Managing around disease is really top of mind for growers when they're picking their genetics for the coming year.”

Selecting disease resistant varieties can go a long way to ensure a healthy crop.

A great source of data, for both corn and soybean, are the FIRST Seed Trials.

“The FIRST trials are independent, third-party trials, where we submit our best varieties and our best hybrids along with other competitors,” said Travis Kriegshauser, strategic marketing manager for Golden Harvest.

FIRST trials are done all over the country and allow growers to compare hybrids side-by-side in similar areas and geographies as their own fields. The trials faced the same challenges other growers faced in the area.

Planting date was possibly the biggest challenge is 2019.

“We are at the mercy of what Mother Nature gives us for planting date,” Tollefson said. “However, some of the new tools that we've developed for product placement actually allow us to identify products that perform better as early or late planted products.”

One product that functions well as a late planted soybean is a Golden Harvest variety that was identified as a good choice to be planted following a vegetable crop harvest such as peas. The vegetable crop is harvested in the early to mid-summer and this soybean variety does better with the later planting date.

In the end, when it comes to planning next year’s varieties, it all comes down to the data and past year’s experiences.

“Relying simply on a local plot may not be the right course of action this year depending on items like when it was planted, fertility package, and all of the other hurdles that they had to fight with,” Barrett said. “Collect as much multi-year data on hybrids as you can so that 2019 isn’t the only year guiding the decision.”

Growers need to look at their own fields. What weeds and diseases did they face? Have they been facing for the last few years?

“They need to decide what their herbicide program is going to be to control some of these difficult to kill weeds,” Tollefson said. “Obviously, yield is at the top of everyone's mind, but again, I think looking for soybean varieties that have resistance to the diseases that they typically struggle with on their farm and matching that resistance to that is really important.”

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