13 factors to consider in your 2023 seed selection decisions
Hopefully, 2023 won’t herald the start of an era of lava lamps, leisure suits, and double-digit inflation faced by your parents and grandparents in the late 1970s. Still, the price farmers pay for 2023 seed will be higher than in past years. Here are some ideas how to navigate seed buying in an inflationary atmosphere.
1. Corn looks good...
Farmers like growing corn, corn, and more corn. April 2022 calculations by Gary Schnitkey, Krista Swanson, Nick Paulson, and Jim Baltz, U of I agricultural economists, and Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University (OSU) agricultural economist, give corn the current nod. Farmer return per acre of corn is $365 per acre for highly productive central Illinois land, compared to $179 per acre for soybeans.
2. Don’t forget soybeans
The U of I and OSU economists remind farmers that corn has higher price, supply and nitrogen fertilizer risks compared to soybeans.
“We’re also seeing a surge in double-crop soybeans [in west-central Illinois], due to favorable economics for both soybeans and previously planted winter wheat,” says Stephanie Porter, Golden Harvest soybean product manager. “Farmers are also learning that they can gain yield by planting soybeans earlier in cooler weather.”
3. You get what you pay for
“Price is a difficult conversation,” says Isaac Anderson, WinField United technical seed agronomist, “but I do believe that in our industry, you get what you pay for. Our newest and latest and most elite genetics that are priced the highest are also our most durable products. If you look at our geography through Minnesota and the Dakotas, we sustained significant periods of drought last year. Yet, our yields were only down 10% to 15% in those areas. Hybrids from 10 to 20 years ago probably would have yielded about half of what they did last year.”
4. Access discounts
Early-order discounts can help ease seed price concerns. Still, it’s a balancing act.
“You may get an early-season discount without having a chance to fully evaluate a variety,” says Marc Hoobler, northern region agronomy lead for BASF.
The good news? Farmers may access many early-order discount programs without having to select a certain variety.
“You can prepay to take advantage of a discount, with variety selection coming later,” Hoobler says.
5. Shake It Up
Pests love predictability. Thus, repeated use of a control measure spawns resistance.
“We’ve all been guilty in the past of the ‘silver bullet syndrome’, where we keep riding the same trait until it no longer works,” says Bruce Battles, Syngenta technical agronomy manager. “Adopt a mentality of shaking up things up every year.”
For example, switching to a different corn rootworm-resistant trait and/or using it in combination with a soil-applied insecticide in 2023 can forestall trait resistance in rootworm-infested fields, Battles says.
There’s more good news, too. Rotating corn with soybeans still nixes corn rootworm in many fields. Thus, farmers can direct money spent to buy a hybrid with a corn rootworm-resistant trait or a soil-applied insecticide elsewhere, he says.
7. Reject Recency Bias
It’s easy to be dreamy eyed about last year’s hybrid or variety that filled your bins to the brim. Still, save that lovin’ feeling for your spouse. What you’re experiencing is recency bias, which poorly predicts seed performance, says Andy Heggenstaller, head of agronomy, U.S. seeds for Syngenta.
“If hybrid A does tremendously well or poor on your farm this year, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen again next year,” he says. “Next year will be different than 2022, just as 2022 was different than 2021.”
8. Go Long With Soybean Varieties
In general, yields of long-maturing soybean varieties exceed those of medium- and early-maturing varieties,” notes BASF’s Hoobler.
“Planting a late-maturing variety that’s adapted for an area will give a farmer opportunity to add yield,” he says. “Sometimes, that’s not the case, though, especially as you move north. You don’t want to plant too long of a maturing variety because you can run into an early freeze and then you’re really in trouble.”
9. Go Long for Hybrids, Too
“There’s still a trend to higher yields with fuller season maturities,” says Justin Welch, Syngenta digital product manager.
That’s why many northern Illinois farmers have shifted from corn with relative maturities of 105 days to 110 days, adds Judd Maxwell, Syngenta corn product placement manager.
“They’re now planting 110-day corn because they can harvest more yield in the same period of time,” Maxwell says.
However, this move increases the risk of an early fall frost spurring wet and immature corn, adds Maxwell. Thus, the move toward longer corn maturities hinges upon the drying capacity a farmer has, he adds.
10. Photo Lodging
Early planting can also encourage soybeans to grow taller, says Golden Harvest’s Porter.
“This can increase the odds of lodging, particularly when planted at higher populations in productive soils,” she says. “If lodging occurs at the beginning of seed fill, yields will suffer.
Selecting a shorter variety that has a good lodging score or backing off populations can help slice lodging odds, she adds.
11. Tar spot
Tar spot is a corn fungal disease that’s been increasing across the Corn Belt. Fungicides can help manage the disease, but tolerant hybrids help ease tar spot concerns from the start.
“There are [tar spot] tolerance differences between hybrids,” says Brandon Hulme, agronomist for Champion Seed. “Pair hybrids with good tar spot tolerance ratings to fields with a tar spot history. Rotating to soybeans the following year and tilling to bury residue are other ways to manage tar spot.”
12. What’s On My Seed (Part One)
For the most part, farmers know nitrogen rates they apply to their corn. Ditto for the rate of herbicides they apply to crops.
Seed treatments? Well, multiple components can create a mix of seed treatment chemistries unknown to the farmer.
13. What’s On My Seed (Part Two)
Not knowing which treatment accompanies seed and what it controls can spur failed pest control, says Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin Extension agronomist.
“You also have to understand the rates on both diseases and insects, because rates dictate different activity on different pathogens,” he adds.