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Corn questions for 2013

Gil Gullickson 02/14/2013 @ 9:29am Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Many of you couldn't wait to throw your 2012 calenders away and think about 2013. That's an understatement, for 2012 was the worst drought year since 1988.

Fortunately, 2013 is here and you can start out with a clean slate, particularly if winter snow recharges subsoil levels. Here are some questions and answers you may have regarding future growing seasons.

1. Is the hybrid supply always this tight?

Not usually. Then again, 2012 was one of the most abnormal years in recent history. It came on the heels of a tight seed supply going into 2012, when adverse weather in seed-growing regions hamstrung seed production in 2011.

“The weather has impacted the whole Midwest,” says Chris Garvey, Mycogen Seeds general manager. “We geographically diversify our seed production over a wide area, but the drought, as well as heat, has impacted pollination.” It's important to note, though, that irrigated domestic acres and South American winter production have helped ease supplies.

Consider what's happened the last two years as you plan for future years. Ordering hybrids and varieties early in fall may not guarantee you'll obtain them, but it puts you first in line.

“In some years (like 2012), some growers might not get their first choice of hybrids,” says Matt Kirkpatrick, a Monsanto marketing manager.

Kirkpatrick points out that shortages result every year, however, for top sellers. “Do some preplanning to get your favorite hybrids on order,” he says. “It pays to have early discussions.”

This particularly applies to new hybrids. “There is always a cap on brand-new products in the first year of commercialization,” says Jeff Hartz, director of marketing for Wyffels Hybrids. Early orders are one way you can access new technology, he adds.

2. Do high corn prices key seed price hikes?

“Commodity prices play a role, but a small one,” says Kirkpatrick. “Because the market is so volatile, we couldn't raise seed prices one year and then drop the next year based on commodity prices. Farmers would not want to see variability like that in seed pricing.”

Instead, seed is priced according to value, says Mick Messman, U.S. region director of product marketing for DuPont Pioneer. “With value-based pricing, we look at the value that products deliver to the customer, whether it's new traits or new genetics,” he says.

3. How much does uneven corn growth hamper yields?

If your chest tightens and your stomach churns when you walk though a field with uneven stands, there's a reason why.

“If plants are two leaf stages behind, there is a big yield drag,” says Jeff Coulter, University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension agronomist. The delay carries all the way throughout the growing season.

“When some plants are done silking, the other plants are still two leaf stages behind,” he notes.

U of M tests show corn yields for stands where every other plant is delayed one leaf stage tallied 94% of yields in fields with uniform stands. Yields for stands where every other plant is delayed two leaf stages tallied 83% of yields of fields with uniform stands. Yields for stands with every other plant missing were 73% of yields of fields with uniform stands.

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