Hopefully, 2023 won’t drastically change what we see as normal. No doubt, the price farmers pay for their 2023 seed selection will be higher again. Buying seeds during inflation can be challenging. Here are some tips to get you through.

Table of Content

1. Corn Looks Good
2. Don’t Forget Soybeans
3. You Get What You Pay For
4. Find and Use Discounts
5. Change It Up
6. Reject Recency Effect
7. Go Long With Soybean Varieties
8. Go Long For Hybrids, Too
9. Tar Spot

1. Corn Looks Good

Generally, people think of corn as sweet corn on the cob we eat directly, but it accounts for only 1% of the corn acreage in the U.S. The corn I am talking about is field corn, which is planted primarily all over the Midwest. 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

According to the U of I and OSU economists, corn is more expensive and more prone to supply problems, as well as nitrogen fertilizer risks. “We’re also seeing a surge in double-crop soybeans, 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.” The most important benefit from planting soybeans early is higher yields. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that soybean yields decrease by 0.4 of a bushel per acre per day when planting is delayed past the first week of May.

3. You Get What You Pay For

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires all seeds sold commercially to be tested and meet minimum germination standards. Most states also have their own seed laws setting minimum requirements, and most seed companies have minimum standards for seed they will market. However, the standard germination test tells only part of the story. A germination test conducted under ideal conditions doesn’t give a good indication of a seed’s performance under challenging field conditions. Running a vigor test provides a better estimate of field performance. Testing for seedling vigor includes accelerated aging, cold, electric conductivity, and vigor classification. Low vigor seeds may not grow well under adverse field conditions, even if they have an acceptable germination percentage. Vigor testing is particularly valuable for seed that has been held over, stored under unknown or unfavorable conditions, or will be planted under less-than-ideal soil or weather conditions.

4. Find and Use Discounts

It can be helpful to ease seed price concerns by ordering early. Take advantage of all the opportunities out there. Here are a few things could help:

Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources
Grainger Industrial Supply
Prime Day (It’s passed for this year)
Farmers Union Member Benefits
National Young Farmers Coalition
Billion Farmer Discount
Apply for farm grants and loans

5. Change It Up

Pests love predictability. A control measure can become resistant when it is used repeatedly.

Each crop uses different types and amounts of minerals from the soil. If the same crop is planted each and every year, over time the soil is depleted of the minerals essential for plant growth and health. In reverse, a different crop will sometimes return missing minerals to the soil as the plant dies and composts or is turned into the soil. Rootworm can also be demolished by changing up the crop as well. Because corn rootworm larvae must feed on corn roots to survive, switching crops from one year to the next effectively eliminates their chances of survival. Without corn roots to feed on, they starve to death.

6. Reject Recency Effect

It’s so easy to make big decisions based on your most recent experience. What you’re experiencing is called the recency effect or recency bias, which poorly predicts seed performance.

Next year will be different from 2022, just as 2022 was different from 2021. A good rule of thumb is to compile at least five years of yield and production data. Then, toss out the outliers. This will help you set realistic goals and choose seed options for broad success. More tips on making sure you don’t suffer from the Recency Effect.

7. Go Long With Soybean Varieties

Producers are looking for ways to improve soybean yields and profitability and many are planting longer maturing soybean varieties as a way to reach these goals. The theory behind this strategy is that later maturing varieties will have a longer reproductive period and take full advantage of the growing season. However, planting later maturing varieties carries some risk. The most obvious risk is that the crop could be damaged by frost or freeze events, reducing yield and quality and increasing harvest delays.

8. 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.

9. Tar Spot

The Corn Belt is experiencing an increase in tar spot, a fungus that attacks corn. Tar spot pressure in corn is fueled by cool (60-70 degrees F), humid conditions (>75% relative humidity) and prolonged leaf wetness (>7 hours). Therefore, tar spot pressure is typically higher in areas such as those closer in proximity to the great lakes (e.g., Northwest Indiana), river bottoms, and irrigated corn acres. Furthermore, it is also important to note that previous research has found that the pathogen that causes tar spot can overwinter on infested corn residue on the soil surface, thus causing crop infection risks in the following year(s).

To manage tar spots, it is important to start with a healthy hybrid, apply fungicides on time, and improve the overall health of the plant. The tar spot typically attacks plants in conjunction with other diseases, so hybrids with better plant health can withstand tar spot pressure better.

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