As seed selections are made for 2017, it is worthwhile to analyze 2016 performance data field by field and hybrid by hybrid. Genetics that showcase consistency and stability over years and environments will be more likely to optimize yield potential and reduce risk on your farm.
In addition to selecting reliable hybrids, choosing an appropriate trait package will help to preserve the genetic yield potential of that product.
Value Of Traits
Due to reduced profit margins that come with lower commodity prices, farmers are under pressure to reduce expenses within their operation. With seed being a significant input cost, it is often under the most scrutiny. Although it is impossible to raise a crop without seed, costs may be cut when it comes to selecting a trait package.
It may be tempting to cut traits altogether if damage from pests such as corn rootworm, European corn borer or corn earworm has not recently been observed on your farm, or at least to your knowledge.
Even though these pests have been effectively managed by traits and appropriate management practices, it doesn’t mean the pests have been eradicated. In fact, the goal is to maintain a population of pests year to year with survival on refuge plants in an effort to manage insect resistance and preserve trait efficacy.
Prior to refuge-blended products, it was easy to see the extent of damage on refuge corn in the area of the field it was planted. But with the majority of traited products offered as refuge-blended solutions, pest damage is less obvious when plants are scattered throughout an entire field.
Consequently, many growers forget how damaging these insects can be until in-plant protection is absent. This past year, some areas saw substantial damage due to ECB and CRW on acres planted with conventional products.
While seed with trait packages may be priced higher than conventional hybrids, the traits are insurance against pest infestations. Buying protection that is built into the seed and lasts through the season is more effective than treating pest infestations reactively and suffering yield loss from the resulting damage.
While there are situations where conventional corn makes sense, growers need to fully analyze treatment costs and potential yield impact and returns before making that decision.
Traits Not All Equal
A wide mix of different weed and insect trait packages are available, but not all traits are the same. This creates confusion in the marketplace.
A table listing different traits and level of protection is available from Michigan State University at: msuent.com/assets/pdf/28BtTraitTable2016.pdf.
Work with your seed representative or agronomist to properly position the right genetics with the best trait package on your farm.