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Look Beyond Seed Corn To Cut Production Costs

Many farmers look to save money on the cost of seed corn. The fact is, however, that cutting seed corn costs won’t do much for profits when you look at overall yield.  Click here to read more on this topic.

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Why Some Farmers Aren’t Sold on Cover Crops

Cover crops seem to be all the rage these days. However, not everyone is sold on the idea of cover crops, including many farmers.  Read more to know why some farmers aren''t sold on cover crops

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Many individuals mistakenly believe that it makes good sense for farmers to save seeds from the current year to plant the next year. After all, purchasing seeds is a significant expense, right? The fact is, the practice of saving seeds was for the most part abandoned in the 1930s with the advent of hybrids. Read more to know why farmers don''t have seeds

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Corn Detasseling 101

If you grew up on a farm, chances are you know all about seed corn detasseling. Many people are unaware of how the process works, however, and still others don’t even know what it is in the first place. Read More to know about Corn Detasseling 101 from Terning.

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Wet Weather Can Throw a Wrench in Weed Control

Extreme weather conditions are a fact-of-life for farmers. Such conditions bring to mind the old farming adage, “A dry year will scare you to death but a wet year will kill you.”While dry weather is likely to reduce yields, it is unlikely to impact quality. Wet weather is a different story and can lead to mold and plant disease. Read More to know about weed control from Terning.

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Can Insects and Weeds be Managed with Conventional Corn Hybrids?

Some farmers today are finding that they are able to manage insects and weeds with conventional corn hybrids. But that doesn’t mean the practice will work for everyone.

There are several reasons why some farmers are choosing to go this route. These include weed resistance and declining populations of pests. To make it worth their while, however, farmers will need to employ rigorous scouting and pest management methods.

Agronomists will tell you that it is not just genetics that have the greatest impact on yields but rather the management of those genetics. And when corn followed soybeans, trait packages were basically the same.

Of course, not all farmers are ready to make the jump to conventional corn hybrids and demand for Bt corn continues to rise. In fact, two out of every three corn acres in the United States are planted with Bt hybrids. Why? Farmers know that Bt adoption positively impacts both yields and profits.

Finding the right conventional corn hybrid takes time. There are a lot of good choices and there are no clear-cut winners. It may take a lot of trial and error to get just the right mix of corn hybrids.

Crop rotation is an important aspect of a conventional corn hybrid-only approach, as well. In the Corn Belt, for example, rotation is an effective way to control rootworm. Even when there is a heavy infestation of rootworm, taking corn out of the field for a year, can eliminate it. This is not always the case, however. If volunteer corn in soybeans is not controlled or you farm in an area where rootworms have adapted to the rotation, the need for insecticide will remain.

If you are considering making the switch to conventional corn hybrids, you must have the necessary equipment and manpower to make the switch. Conventional corn hybrids are generally more labor-intensive, so it might make more sense to plant some Bt corn, as well. Another thing to keep in mind is that your management strategy is going to have to be more long-term. In other words, if you want to use the same practice year in and year out, conventional corn hybrids is not your best option.

Switching to conventional corn hybrids may not be for everyone but they can be a good choice for some. Do your research before you make the switch to make sure it makes sense for your operation.

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A Brief History of Hybrid Seed Corn

Hybrid seed corn is so common today we hardly think about it. In fact, more than 95 percent of corn planted today is hybrid corn. Thanks to hybrid seed, today’s farmers are able to produce 20 percent more corn on 25 percent fewer acres than they did a century ago.

It was a geneticist from New York, G.H. Shull, who began experimenting on inheritance in the early 1900s. His experiments were the basis for hybrid corn and included observations on the reduction in vigor on inbreeding and the restoration of vigor on crossing. There were other experiments taking place at the time, as well, and the general consensus was that hybrid corn could not be achieved because of the poor vigor of inbred parents.

Open-pollinated varieties are maintained through mass selection. Windborne pollen impacts fertilization with no control of male parentage. Inbred lines are derived from a mix of inbreeding and selection. Inbreeding transfers pollen from an individual plant to silks of the same plant. When this process is repeated over several generations, the strain becomes stable.

In order to maintain only the superior hybrids, selection is practiced in every generation. Cross-breeding involves the crossing of selected parents. Single crosses are produced by two inbred lines, double crosses by crossing two different single crosses.

In 1918, the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station double crossed hybrids from four inbred parents. This helped to lessen the impact of poor vigor of inbred parents. Released in 1921, this male hybrid corn was the first to be produced commercially.

The early 1920s saw many inbreeding and hybridization programs. Since basic genetic theory was inadequate at the time, new procedures had to be developed. Hundreds of inbred lines were isolated and evaluated in thousands of crosses.

When corn hybrids initially became commercially available, farmers were still reluctant to adopt them. That began to change as demonstrations were held and field observations took place. By the mid-1930s, demand exceeded production and the hybrid seed industry was up and running. Since that time it has showed no signs of slowing.

While it is true that hybrids have allowed for an increase in corn production, they have done much more. Hybrids allow for efficient use of applied fertilizer. They also allow for resistance to a variety of insects and diseases, leading to higher quality corn. Finally, the uniformity in maturity and lodging resistance in hybrid corn have made large-scale mechanization possible.


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A Resurgence in Cross Slot Seeding?

The phrase, everything old is new again, is quite common. And when it comes to agriculture, it often rings true. One of those cases is the concept of cross slot seeding.

Cross slot seeding uses a drill that combines low-disturbance planting with fertilizer banding or knifing closer to the seed. This is not a new concept and has been touted on and off over the years as either a groundbreaking concept in farming or a method too risky to employ. Today, thanks to research at different universities throughout the United States, the method is gaining favor.

This is a departure from a time when many in the Ag industry believed that knifing in fertilizer wasn’t worth the risk. The belief was that if fertilizer was placed too close to seed, germination and emergence would suffer and if it was placed too far away from the seed, it was no more effective than surface broadcasting.

However, the cross-slot drill is actually ingenious in its simplicity. The drill has two side blades that run alongside the coulter on opposite sides. These blades lift the soil to create a shelf on either side of the trench. Seed is placed on one shelf and on the other, fertilizer. Air-seeder technology with a press wheel patting the soil down, leaves surface residue intact. This protects the seed and conserves moisture at the same time. Research shows that as long as the fertilizer is within two inches of the seed, germination and emergence improves.

The design of the cross-slot design also maximizes uniform emergence which improves overall plant stand and health and, ultimately, yield. This seems to confirm what many Ag researchers have come to believe as of late—that emergence is more important than placement.

Using narrower row spacing for corn has other significant advantages. One is an increase in pollination. Since corn plants are self-pollinating, this leads to high yielding corn. And this is not a new concept. Years ago, corn seed often was planted in a checkboard pattern to boost pollination. This labor-intensive method of planting died out, however, when herbicides were introduced. While narrower rows may cause a drop in plant population per acre, studies show that there is little reduction in yields from non-uniform stands if the final population remains within 15 percent of its target.

The beauty of the cross-slot drill is that it can plant narrower rows at a lower price. Farmers can use their existing air drills and don’t have to purchase new equipment. What’s more, research shows that when the distance between seeds increases, the need for strict accuracy of spacing decreases.

While cross slot seeding isn’t spreading like wildfire, its popularity is beginning to heat up. And there is no doubt that farmers across the United States are beginning to take notice.


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Preventing Cross Contamination During Planting and Harvest

If you are a farmer considering planting one or more specialty crops, it is important that you take particular care when planting these crops next to one another or near another farmer’s field. This will help to ensure that each specialty crop reaches its full potential.

One of the dangers of planting specialty crops near one another is that they may cross contaminate, impacting each crop’s ability to achieve its full potential. The first way to prevent cross contamination is to work with your neighbors and find out what they are planting. It’s simply a fact of modern farming—no matter what the crop—cross contamination can occur. However, maintaining the integrity of hybrids depends on lessening the likelihood of cross contamination.

Of course, it isn’t just specialty crops that need to be protected from cross contamination. Any crop, specialty or not, produces a higher yield when cross pollination is minimized. One way to do that is to plant seed corn in isolation, taking into consideration things like the direction of prevailing winds during pollination, roadways, creeks, ditches and waterways. It also is a good idea to plant of strip of a different crop around the specialty or primary crop to achieve proper setbacks. Inside the primary crop, plant a male row so that when pollination is taking place the field is flooded with the desired pollen.

Seed cornfields are planted with male and female rows in a particular pattern so that the pollen from the tassels on the male plants can be used to pollinate the silks on the female plants which creates a hybrid seed. De-tasseling silks on female plants is timed so that it occurs when those silks are ready to accept pollen.

Once pollination is finished, male rows need to be destroyed before the kernels on the ear of the corn are viable. This eliminates the threat of volunteer corn sprouting in the field the next year. Doing so will reduce the need for additional herbicide.

Cleanliness is a critical consideration when it comes to the planting and harvesting of seed corn, as well. While planting, planters should be thoroughly cleaned between fields to prevent seeds from one hybrid making its way into another field. The same goes for harvest time. Pickers should be kernel-cleaned and any kernel not on an ear destroyed.

Farmers need to work on their own and communicate with neighboring farmers so that everyone can maintain the integrity of their fields. Otherwise, the integrity of all crops will suffer.


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Successful Weed Management in Corn Starts Early

Failure to control weeds can spell disaster for your corn crop. However, the timing of weed control is a significant factor in weed control that is often ignored.

The growth of herbicide resistance has led to the need for early weed control. And with farmers planting crops as early as safely possible, this means that weed control needs to occur earlier, as well. Weeds that grow too long in corn are known to hurt yields. In fact, even when all other factors have come together—a well-established stand, proper nutrients, sufficient rainfall—delayed weed control can spell disaster.

Corn plants do things initially that impact yield potential. Early in the season, plants are able to sense from reflected light if there is competition from other plants or weeds. These plants then react accordingly. Since corn grows best with lot of space, early pressure from weeds can lead to potentially high yielding corn to produce lower yields as corn grows taller and spindlier in an effort to beat out other plants and weeds for sunlight. While under-planting corn is a waste of space, overplanting also is discouraged to avoid light reflection from other plants.

The longer you wait to spray weed control, the lower your yields will be as taller weeds encourage smaller corn ear production and fewer kernels because of concern from corn plants over competition. Of course, delayed planting of pre-emergence herbicides isn’t always the fault of the farmer. Excessive rainfall can force farmers to hold back on applying herbicides.

Post-emergence herbicides aren’t always the answer either as rainfall can cause issues for these, as well. For example, rain can delay timely application of post-emergence herbicides which allow weeds to compete for a longer period of time. When an application is finally made, it will likely be less successful. Residual herbicides will then become critical for yield protection.

Controlling weeds at the seedling stage is essential. If these weeds seed, they can produce millions of seeds. Finally, you may want to consider rotating your crops as well as your chemicals in order to control weeds and reduce the chance that herbicide-resistant weeds will evolve. In the end, early weed control is the key to higher yields so you need to devise a strategy to control weeds and have some options should conditions force you to change that strategy.

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Ten Ways to Enhance Corn Performance

In an effort to increase corn yields, many farmers have turned to boosting inputs. However, with today’s drop in crop net returns it may be best to focus less on inputs and more on ways to enhance corn performance.

Inputs such as fertilizers, row spacing, seeding rates, as well as preventative applications of things like biological stimulants, foliar fungicides and growth regulators are becoming increasingly cost prohibitive since the return on investment cannot be guaranteed. This is not to say these methods should be discarded altogether, but rather used in conjunction with other types enhancement methods.

Of course, there are several management practices that can be put in place to enhance corn performance. The key is to investigate these practices and decide which will work best for your particular operation. What follows are some practices you may want to consider.

  1. Adhere to seeding rate recommendations. If you are unsure of the recommended rate your seed dealer will be able to help you.
  2. Be economical with nitrogen. Consider side-dressing and an application method that minimizes any potential loss of nitrogen.
  3. Choose the correct hybrids. Choose hybrids that continue to produce high yields in a variety of locations. It also is important to choose hybrid seed corn that rates high for foliar and stalk rot diseases. This is especially important when planting no-till or reduced tillage.
  4. Employ pest management practices. The need for effective and timely pest and weed control cannot be underestimated.
  5. Enhance stand establishment. Adjust seeding depth as soil conditions warrant.
  6. Know when to plant. If possible, try to finish planting by early May. Dry soil conditions may allow for earlier planting, but it is better to plant late than to plant on poorly drained soil.
  7. Perform tillage only when necessary. The only time tillage is required is when there is a compacted zone or in the late summer due to dry conditions.
  8. Practice traffic control. The more heavy equipment that drives over fields, the greater soil compaction and lower productivity.
  9. Rotate crops. Corn that is grown after soybeans is likely to bring a higher yield than corn grown after corn.
  10. Soil test to adjust pH. Soil testing prevents unwarranted phosphorus and potassium applications.

Again, there are many ways to enhance corn performance. Employing one or more of the practices listed above will go a long way toward greater performance. It also is important to remain on the lookout for trouble throughout the season to prevent such problems from impacting overall performance.

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The Importance of Monitoring Freshly Planted Corn When the Weather Turns Cold and Wet

There is nothing better than planting corn knowing that the weather conditions are perfect. And, as any farmer can tell you, there is nothing worse than when the weather takes a turn for the worse shortly after planting.

Imbibitional chilling is a huge concern for corn seeds that have been planted or are in the early stages of germinating. In such cases it is critical to give these seeds extra attention when you scout early planted corn for germination and emergence.

Imbibition occurs when seeds absorb water for the process of germinating. Imbibition of cold water can cause issues since cold water upsets the reorganization of cells during rehydration. The result is a loss of seed vigor, or worse, seed death. The impact of imbibitional chilling is worse when the soil that seeds are planted in is 50 degrees or lower than it is when seeds are planted in warm soil followed by a drop in temperatures.

Corn seed absorbs about a third of its weight in water during the early process of germination. If this water is too cold, trouble can start. Temperatures in the upper 40s to low 50s are considered the danger zone by most agronomists. One of the most troubling occurrences is that the cell walls of the germinating corn seedling becomes brittle and ruptures. Other problems may occur, as well, including:

  • The rupture of coleoptiles
  • Corkscrewed corn seedlings
  • Corn that leafs out underground
  • Seedlings that are more prone to pathogens
  • The death of seedlings
  • Seeds that swell but don’t grow

When corn is planted a day or two before a cold front that includes rain, seeds can imbibe the cold water. However, it isn’t the cold water itself that is the issue when it comes to imbibition. Instead it is the growth of the radicle root which is directly linked to soil temperature. For example, the radicle root of a germinating corn seedling will grow when the soil is as low as 46 degrees but the mesocotyl and coleoptile need temperatures to be about 15 degrees higher than that in order to grow. Without these higher temps, emergence can be negatively impacted, or plants may experience stunted growth. Therefore, if fields are planted ahead of cold weather, it is critical to monitor those fields to determine whether they are growing normally.

It is important to keep in mind that cold soil or imbibitional chilling issues often only impact a small area of soil or particular corn hybrids. If the damage is more widespread, replanting may be necessary.

Thankfully, most of today’s corn hybrids are durable and improved genetics allow them to withstand a great deal of stress. Advanced fungicide and insecticide seed treatments also increase the chances of a healthy stand of corn.


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Are Soybean Seed Treatments Worth the Investment?

Seed treatments are one of the fast-growing segments of crop production and protection today, with most of the seed treatment decisions made on soybean acres. However, deciding what seed treatments—if any—will be the most beneficial for a particular operation can be challenging.

One reason deciding on treatments can be so difficult has to do with the sheer number of available choices. The many choices include everything from biologicals to fungicides to growth promoters to inoculants. Thankfully, a decision can be made very close to planting season since seed dealers are able to customize these treatments on-site. This means that you can use your most up-to-date field agronomic issues, soil condition and weather forecasts to make as informed decision as possible.

Comparing the risk of seed treatments versus the reward of these treatments is probably the most significant consideration when it comes to seed treatments. Choosing whether or not to use seed treatments can be difficult and must be based on factors such as affordability. It is paramount, then, to carefully assess whether you truly need seed treatments to manage risk.

Choosing not to use seed treatments can be risky, as well. After all, you need to decide when you feel comfortable enough that any risk factors are remote enough to forgo seed treatment. For example, do current soil and weather conditions signal rapid emergence and strong growth following planting? If so, then seed treatments are unlikely to be worth the expense. Likewise, delayed planting that carries into warm and well-drained soil also may signal that seed treatments are unnecessary. On the other hand, cold spells or significant rainfall can indicate the need to protect your seed investment with treatments.

Regardless of the amount and type of information you have, when it comes time to decide on whether or not to use seed treatments, or which seed treatments to use, there will never be absolutes. The benefits and risks for your particular operation will need to be carefully weighed and, in the end, only you will be able to make the final decision. The key is to assess all of the factors and then decide if seed treatments are worth the investment.



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The Significance of Breeding on Corn Hybrids

When it comes to a dairy operation’s bottom line, the importance of a high-quality forage as the basis of the total mixed ration (TMR) cannot be underestimated. In light of this fact, it is important to always keep in mind the effect breeding has on a corn hybrid.

In general, grain and silage hybrids have opposite characteristics. This should come as no surprise since they are bred for different purposes. Corn silage hybrids are bred for total plant silage characteristics while dual purpose hybrids are bred for total grain characteristics. In other words, if you want to grow corn for grain choose a grain hybrid. For silage, a hybrid specifically bred for silage.

The majority of corn acres are used to grow grain. Therefore, a grain hybrid for this purpose must have durable kernels that do not break apart easily, especially during combining, elevating and shipping. They also must dry quickly, or the cost of mechanical drying will make them cost-prohibitive.

The most successful breeders choose grain hybrids that have stiff stalks that last late into the season and a high ear placement to make combining easier. Since kernel integrity is the name of the game, these characteristics will be the difference between profit and loss.

Since dual purpose hybrids are bred for grain, they do not make great silage. This comes down to two factors: fiber and starch. The ideal grain hybrid is bred to stand up to the elements until late into the harvest season. This means its stalks must be stiff and extremely solid and the position of its ear must be high on the stalk—both of which reduce fiber digestibility.

When it comes to starch, keep in mind that when a grain hybrid reaches silage maturity, its kernels dry fast and become extremely tough. This results in a narrow window for it to be harvested as silage. This is further complicated by the fact that when its kernels reach the appropriate moisture level for silage, the plants are too green and wet for the bunker. If the plant is harvested at that time, the kernels will be hard and dry. And while they may contain high starch levels, they will likely remain intact or break into large pieces when eaten by cows. This makes the starch useless in the rumen for milk production.

Breeding for silage involves a much different process than breeding for grain. The ultimate goal of a corn silage hybrid is to produce a hearty, digestible crop that promotes rumination and produces high quality milk when mixed into a TMR and fed to a lactating cow.

Unlike grain hybrids, the ideal silage will have a high total plant yield of digestible fiber and starch and an extended harvest window that allows it to dry to the correct moisture level and stay there. It also will have adequate sugars to promote fermentation and a relatively short storage period to save space and reduce dry matter loss.


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Popularity of Drought Tolerant Seed Corn Spreading Beyond the Cornbelt

Drought used to be an issue only for the arid western regions, but more and more, drought is impacting the entire Corn Belt and beyond. In light of this fact, many agricultural experts recommend that all farmers plant at least some of their acres to drought tolerant hybrids.

One option is Artesian corn hybrids. The beauty of Artesian hybrids is that they conserve water and sustain yields when there are drought conditions, but also meet or exceed the yields of comparable hybrids when conditions are normal.

Research shows that during seasons when available water is limited, Artesian hybrids demonstrate a nearly 12 percent yield advantage over non-Artesian hybrids. What’s more, farmers across the nation are beginning to see the benefit of these hybrids’ water optimization, regardless of the weather conditions. Other benefits of Artesian hybrids are late-season stay-green that result in better grain quality, better standability and higher test weights.

Of course, drought resistant hybrids were initially designed for the western Corn Belt which is why these hybrids are more popular in this area and many farmers in the other parts of the country are unfamiliar with these types of hybrids. That is likely to change since the latest hybrids are designed for more disease resistance and improved water use, making them attractive to farmers across the United States.

Still, not all farmers are interested in giving drought tolerant seed corn a try. In. such cases, education is the key since these farmers may not be aware of all they these hybrids have to offer. They also may be under the mistaken assumption that they are only for farmers who are concerned specifically with drought. However, water issues come in different forms. For example, farmers in the central and eastern portions of the Cornbelt deal with variable amounts of rainfall which can negatively impact yields. Variable moisture levels in soil also prevent corn crops from using water as effectively as possible.

Such farmers may be surprised to learn that the drought tolerance and water optimization that comes with Artesian hybrids can go a long way toward improving their operations—no matter where they live. For example, Artesian hybrids have been shown to perform well season after season in tough conditions other than just droughts. Artesian hybrids also can help crops optimize the use of available water at all stages of plant growth. Finally, these hybrids can be combined with the best insect control and herbicide-tolerant traits available.



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