BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Farming is local, crop marketing is global and a seed company takes this notion full circle with its product development.

“The best of both worlds is to have the ability to breed globally and test locally,” said Lance Tarochione, Asgrow/DeKalb Illinois technical agronomist, at the Ag Academy.

That local connection funnels down to specific locations through Monsanto’s FieldScripts testing network, launched in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota this year.

FieldScripts evaluates more than 20 data layers per field, including soil type, topography and environment, to identify the best seed selection and optimum planting rates.

“We’re determining hybrid fit, populations, trying to take that germplasm that we developed and bring it down to not only what county it’s going to perform best in, but also what field it’s going to perform best, what soil type is it going to perform best in,” Tarochione said.

“Hopefully in the next couple of years maybe bring it down to what the right nitrogen regime is to put on that hybrid, what’s the right population to plant at, what’s the right time to plant and really how to manage that to get the most out of that genetics.”

Disease Resistance

Hybrids and varieties entering the market also address ever-evolving local needs to protect crops from diseases and pests. One example is Goss’ bacterial wilt, a disease that thrives on continuous corn.

“Goss’ is not common, but it used to not exist at all (in Illinois). And now over the last few years, it’s been cropping up a little more,” Tarochione said.

“As that disease moves eastward and you needed hybrids that were adapted to Illinois from a soil and grain-fill and yield potential standpoint, we had to have those characteristics with Goss’ wilt resistance, whereas 10 years ago we didn’t need that unless you were in Nebraska or western Iowa.”

Gray leaf spot and anthracnose stalk rot are common yield-robbers across the Corn Belt.

“Gray leaf spot tends to get overlooked a little bit. Gray leaf spot has been around a long time,” Tarochione said.

“We have a very high resistance to gray leaf spot in our corn hybrids already. We can use fungicides to control gray leaf spot. We have a lot of ways to control it, but it still is the No. 1 disease in corn nationally.”

Tarochione said he sees the various stalk rots — anthracnose, fusarium, diplodia and gibberella — in corn every year.

“If we continue to push yield and push population to the limit, you’re going to have stalk rot. If you don’t have stalk rot in the cornfield, you’re doing something wrong. You’re probably not planting thick enough,” he said.

Stalk Rot

“Anthracnose stalk rot tends to be the most common stalk rot pathogen we deal with. It’s also one of the most devastating, and we’re very close to bringing out technology that’s going to significantly improve the anthracnose stalk rot ratings of all of our hybrids. We’re also looking at not just genetics, but also seed treatments for stalk rots.”

All of the technology used to protect DeKalb corn yields also is used for Asgrow soybeans product development, including resistance to cyst nematode, black mold, sudden death and lodging, as well as improve harvestability.

“We’re able to deliver the same rapid genetic gains in yield combined with strong agronomic disease characteristics in both of our primary crops,” Tarochione said.

“Molecular markers are not new technology in breeding anymore, but understanding the genome, understanding the genes that are there, having markers associated with those genes, knowing what those genes can do for a plant has very quickly enabled us to developed high yielding adaptive hybrids with higher levels of resistance than what we had in our lineup just three or four years ago.”