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Five Questions with Wyffels Hybrids’ Director of Research

Bill Spiegel 07/16/2014 @ 10:10am I grew up in north-central Kansas, and am the Fourth Generation to maintain and manage our farm; we grow wheat, soybeans and grain sorghum. I'm a 1993 graduate of Kansas State University in ag communications.

Shane Meis, director of research at Wyffels Corn Hybrids, is charged with developing new corn hybrids that ensure success in the cornfields of the Geneseo, Illinois, company's customers. A Kansas State University graduate who claims Iowa and Kansas as his home states, Meis sat down with fellow K-State graduate Bill Spiegel, crops editor, to talk about Wyffels’ corn research. 

Successful Farming: Wyffels announced at its Corn Strategies Conference on July 8 that it had a record year in terms of growth. What keeps corn growers coming back to the company?

Shane Meis: There is always going to be a place in the marketplace for a company like Wyffels. A segment of farmers prefers a regional company like Wyffels, which tends to focus on their geography and acres a little more intently, and they enjoy a close working relationship with the people in our company. Wyffels doesn’t take for granted what we have; we have to earn our business each and every day. 

SF: What is the biggest agronomic challenge facing your company and your customers?

SM: Corn rootworm. There are other biotic and abiotic stresses we deal with, but a large portion of our customer base happens to fall in areas where, year in and year out, they are trying to deal with corn rootworm. We have a broad offering of SmartStax hybrids, which we consider to be very important [SmartStax features traits to combat European corn borer and corn rootworm, plus has Roundup Ready and Liberty Link technologies in the same hybrid].  

SF: What trait technology question do you receive the most from farmers who grow Wyffels corn hybrids?

SM: The question I get the most is how far off is the next trait for corn rootworm control, followed by when will Duracade (Agrisure’s next generation of corn rootworm control) be approved for export? Farmers understand that corn rootworm will continue to evolve, and they are anxious for those technology events they can use to help manage this key pest.

SF: We’re entering an era of “trait resistance,” a la weeds resistant to glyphosate herbicides. How do we ensure the continued success of technologies that thwart corn rootworm?

SM: Wyffels has been proactive in helping corn growers battle corn rootworm through programs like the Corn Rootworm Best Management Practice Guidelines. There are things that can be done to help manage the population, such as insecticide for adult control; scouting and monitoring and evaluating whether it is the right decision to rotate crops, based upon the number of adults we’ve found in a field and the number of years of corn-on-corn. Wyffels is a corn-only seed company, but we want our customers to be successful. Sometimes that means they need to rotate their crops. 

SF: What keeps you up at night?

SM: When you look at Wyffels' budget compared to the multinational companies, it is nowhere close. So we have to continue to do the things we’ve done in the past, which is to continue to test our hybrids across a wide area, and continue to keep our eyes on the products as much as we always have, or even more in the future. We need to spend as much time in the cornfield as we can so that we can capture the information that doesn’t show up in the yield. [Kansas State University head football coach] Bill Snyder has a saying, “get a little better every day.” That’s our motto here at Wyffels, too.

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