Corn & motorcycles
There is a bumper crop of field days to tour corn and soybean demo plots in late summer. The most fun one? It may be the Latham Hi-Tech Seeds event held last weekend near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Their Freedom of Independence Ride and Field Day on Wheels took place along the Mississippi River in both Iowa and Wisconsin.
About 125 farmer-bikers joined Latham on the Independence ride, filing some of the back roads around Cassville, Wisconsin. They split into several small groups on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, ride, and hear the latest corn and soybean news from Latham experts at a half dozen field plot stops.
One of the most talked about topics of the Latham reps is their developing Refuge-in-the-Bag (RIB) program for corn with insect control. In the SmartStax RIB Complete program (from Genuity), growers need not plant a separate block of refuge corn. Rather, the refuge seed is interspersed in the regular bag at a 5% rate. “It’s just easier,” Nick Benson of Lathams tells farmers. “You plant from one bag and the refuge is mixed in.”
Latham corn products manager Nick Benson says if you rotate corn and soybeans every year, you may not have a rootworm problem. In that case, you can plant a Latham hybrid that is called a Genuity Double Pro corn. That corn has built-in protection against above-ground insects, such as corn borer, but it doesn’t have below-ground rootworm protection. “It could save you $50 to $60 a bag on seed,” Benson said.
Benson tells farmers mutating rootworms have overwhelmed the rootworm protection in traited seed corn. Mostly that problem has been seen in some parts of Illinois, where corn-on-corn has been a practice for several years. It might be spreading west as more farmers go corn-on-corn. “The rootworms are simply overwhelming the technology in some areas. New tech is in the pipeline, but it is a couple of years away,” he says.
Jim Heckman, Latham’s national sales manager, tells me about their Seed-2-Soil program, an effort to help farmers match the right seed with the right soil and fertility program. Latham offers three levels of support, the most sophisticated of which is a computerized program that combines grid soil sampling with variable rate seeding and fertility rates.
Perhaps the most fun part of the Latham field day is the travel. Not only is it by motorcycle for many farmers, but it also involves a ferryboat trip across the mighty Mississippi River. Half of the farm plots on the tour are in Wisconsin, and half in Iowa, so we cross from one state to the other on a ferry boat that plies between Cassville, Wisconsin, and the Turkey River Landing on the Iowa side.
This photo shows us unloading the ferryboat of our band of motorcycling farmers. That’s farmer Ron Hampton in the dark shirt just leaving the boat. He tells me that on busy days, the ferry crosses the Mississippi here at Cassville about two dozen times, each trip about 30-45 minutes. Cars pay $15 to cross, motorcycles $8. You can learn all about the Cassville Ferry (schedules, fares, and directions) at cassville.org/ferry.html.
Latham Hi-Tech Seeds soybean roots go back to the 1950s, and they still are very strong in that crop. Product manager Mark Grundmeier tells the farmers that the newer Roundup Ready 2 Yield technology (Monsanto) is coming on line now, and is a big improvement over the original RR technology.
If you peer closely into this cup, you can see a little shiny green bug, a Japanese Beetle. He was plucked from a nearby soybean plant by Latham’s Mark Grundmeier. “They used to be mostly in Illinois, but now you find them all the way to Nebraska,” he says. “They’ll eat anything green – beans, corn, trees, maybe even that guy’s shirt,” he says, pointing nearby.
Latham President John Latham finishes up the day for my group by showing a map of their primary sales territory, from Wisconsin to Nebraska and adjoining states. It’s a good time to be an independent seed company, he says.
Perhaps more importantly, John Latham tells farmers, is that since Latham Seeds is privately owned and independent of the big companies, they might actually have access to more of the current and emerging technology entering the seed industry. “We work with just about all of the technology providers,” he says.
Farmers, motorcycles, and ferryboats come together at Latham field day.