Corn Grower Tests New Nematode Seed Treatment NemaStrike
Jim White wades through 20 rows of tall corn – 8 feet high or more – to get to what he wants to show a farm reporter. Near the middle of this 80-acre field is a 19-acre plot where he is testing one of the newest products on the seed treatment market: Acceleron’s NemaStrike Technology. At right: Jim White and Ryan Meisgeier go deep into White’s cornfield to inspect rows that were seed-treated with Acceleron’s new NemaStrike Technology.
In alternating 16-row swaths, White’s on-farm test compares corn seed that was treated with NemaStrike before planting and corn without it. The product is active against nematodes, the microscopic soil worms that like to chew on plant roots. It will be available exclusively from all Channel, DeKalb, Asgrow, and Regional Brands seed dealers for the 2019 growing season. Your dealer will apply it before delivery.
“I like to try new things,” says White, who grows about 800 acres of corn with his brother, John, north of Waverly, Iowa. White is a Channel Seed dealer himself. “I’m a firm believer in trying products before I talk to my customers about them.”
One of the unusual things about NemaStrike is that it’s being promoted for both soybean and corn seed. Most farmers know that nematodes, particularly the Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN), can be really brutal to soybeans. At seminar after seminar, they’ve heard about SCN, the potential for big yield losses, and the value of planting resistant soybean varieties.
Still, even with all those efforts, some years and some soybean fields show large splotches of wilted, off-color, and dying soybean plants in midseason. If the issue is SCN, root inspection may show the telltale signs of nematode feeding.
Damage in Corn
What’s less talked about is that the tiny nematodes will chew on corn roots, too. The damage may not be as visible in a cornfield. “When you have SCN in soybeans, you can see it easily and it can be alarming,” says Ryan Meisgeier, Acceleron district sales manager for eastern Iowa. “It gets lots of attention.”
But in corn, he continues, nematode damage mimics a lot of other pests, plant diseases, or nutrient deficiencies. And when corn gets tall you can’t see damage in the middle of a field as easily as in soybeans.
Acceleron tests across the Midwest verify that nematodes (there are dozens of species) are prevalent on 80% or more of corn acres, potentially causing yield loss.
Jim White inspects dug corn roots from his test rows. Those on the left got NemaStrike seed treatment; those on the right didn’t.
NemaStrike is a new chemistry (tioxazafen) and is active in the root zone for up to 75 days after planting, says the company. Four years’ worth of tests across North America show that it helps improve corn yields, on average, about 6 bushels an acre and sometimes more. Without saying exactly how much it costs to apply NemaStrike to corn seed, Meisgeier says a 6-bushel bump gives a positive return of at least twice the investment.
On soybeans, he says, the average yield bump has been 2.2 bushels an acre, giving a similar return on investment.
In August, 6 bushels more corn per acre is hard to see by visual inspection. When White shows his test plots, carefully tracked by a GPS at planting and stored in his computer, the treated rows don’t look any different than the non-treated. You can dig roots and look at them side-by-side, but even there the mass and vigor differences are subtle.
White’s cornfield with the test rows has had rain whenever it needed it this summer. Yield potential could be 250 bushels an acre at harvest if weather continues to cooperate. To spot a 6-bushel yield difference in August, you’d have to be able to see that one row is 247 bushels and the one beside it is 253.
“It’s too early to make a yield estimate on this corn today,” says Meisgeier. “The truth will be known at harvest. But I think we’ll get at least that average yield bump.”
We’ll be there to let you know.