September 22, 2023

Set your fields up for success

Planting advice from an expert

MARYVILLE, Ill. — Planting requires planning. Fortunately, farmers now have access to a lot of agronomic data to make informed decisions.

Channel Technical Agronomist Derek Whalen said digital tools like Climate FieldView are vital to make sure the best seeds, traits, herbicides and more are used this spring.

After confirming that your planting equipment is ready to go, review your plans with your local seed dealer to make sure you are putting the right products on the right acres, Whalen said.

He noted each Channel Seedsman sees a lot of products across a lot of acres and can provide specific recommendations for your farm to set your fields up for success.

“We want our dealers to be true seed professionals,” said the agronomist in southern Illinois.

Comprising the season-long Field Check Up Series, each grower’s fields are scouted four times a year, at the seedling, vegetative, reproductive and maturity stages.

“So, that Seedsman can be out there identifying or making note of any sort of issues that may arise throughout the season, being the boots in the field for the grower, to have their back in case anything may go wrong, anything that we can be proactive about, to help that grower have success when it comes to the time that combines are rolling through the fields,” Whalen said.

“Growers are looking for the next thing and the next hybrid, the next agronomic idea that’s going to push their farm to that next yield level,” he said. “Unfortunately, farm ground isn’t something that we can create more of, so we have got to produce more on the acres that we have.”

The Right Seed

For the 2023 season, Channel will have the SmartStax PRO trait package commercially available.

“So, for growers that have heavy corn rootworm pressure, we now added an additional mode of action for below-ground control of corn rootworm,” Whalen said.

“We took the SmartStax technology, which has two traits, three different proteins total, and we added the RNAi Technology with SmartStax PRO. So, it’s a third mode of action to help control corn rootworm in those heavy infestation areas.”

Next season, Channel will have VT4PRO available. It can be seen in test plots this year.

“For the VT4PRO trait package in corn, we’re taking out the Herculex trait and we’re adding in that RNAi Technology with SmartStax PRO,” Whalen said. “We want to place our VT4PRO hybrids on more moderate to lower corn rootworm pressure, but we’re seeing an awesome yield potential for these VT4PRO products for the 2024 season.”

Many growers now split their planter with two different corn hybrids — row by row, picking different hybrids to fit different characteristics throughout the field, whether that is soil type or high or low fertility zones.

“We’re getting so prescriptive in agriculture and I think it’s an awesome thing because we want to put, as a lot of different companies say, the right products on the right acre,” Whalen said.

The Right Time

Growers are now planting soybeans earlier and, in many cases, ahead of corn.

“We’ve learned over the last 10 to 15 years that soybeans can handle a lot harsher and a lot tougher conditions than corn can, generally. So, we’re seeing a lot of growers switch to planting their soybeans first,” Whalen said, warning against sudden death syndrome.

“We definitely recommend that we want to fully treat those soybeans with a full fungicide, insecticide and definitely recommend protection for SDS, whether that’s ILeVO or Saltro. So, we want that protection on there for the soybeans.”

Even emergence is crucial for corn.

“We want to make sure we have good growing conditions for the next seven to 10 days after we put that corn in the ground because we want it all to come up even,” Whalen said.

“You want to ensure that there’s adequate warm temperatures for that corn to get up evenly across the field, so that way each plant has full opportunity to make it to harvest and put on the best ears possible.”

How do you decide if you should plant corn or soybeans?

“If you have a planting window, the soil is dry enough, you have enough soil moisture in the ground to help those seeds germinate, but not too wet, if that next seven, 10, 14 days looks favorable for accumulating growing degree days, nice warm temperatures, that would be a good time to plant corn,” Whalen said.

“If you have a planting window and it’s going to turn off cold for the next two to three weeks, that would probably be a better case where I’d recommend planting soybeans. We’ve learned that soybeans can just handle tougher, more variable conditions better than corn can.”

The Right Herbicide

Early soybean planting also requires growers to think differently about weed control.

“We want to get that crop to canopy as quickly as possible with the help of both post and definitely residual herbicides,” Whalen said.

“If we have a farmer that’s planting beans the first of April, there are several different options that the grower can use in terms of weed control. One would be planting their soybeans and maybe waiting a week or two to give that residual herbicide some more life once we do have weeds coming up.

“The main weed we have in Illinois is waterhemp, so just as corn and soybeans need so many heat units to germinate and start to grow, waterhemp needs a similar number of growing degree units to start to germinate and typically in central and southern Illinois that puts us around May 10 to May 15, maybe a little later, like May 20, for northern Illinois.

“That’s kind of the average calendar date that waterhemp begins to emerge. So, in terms of weed control, growers can maybe wait a little bit for their first residual pass.

“Or, if a grower is concerned, thinking, hey, this April might be really warm, we’re going to start accumulating heat units a lot earlier than the average year, I want to go out and spray that herbicide right after the planter, they can do that and they can work with their local Channel Seedsman and local Channel field sales rep to really help tailor that recommendation to their specific operation based on their risk management idea of if you want to have herbicides on at all times or if you want to try to save a buck and wait until those weeds are starting to emerge. There are several different herbicide recommendations that we can make for various, different conditions.”

Whalen trained as a weed scientist in graduate school at the University of Missouri.

“The best tool that we have is residual herbicides. And I know every crop consultant, every company is talking about using residual herbicides, but it’s so important these days that we take as much pressure off of our post-emergence weed control options, especially in soybeans, taking as much pressure off those herbicides as we can,” he said.

“So, thinking about our current post options, XtendiMax or dicamba, Enlist or 2,4-D product and also Liberty, those products are great, but we want to get those weeds when they’re small, 2 to 3 inches, and that’s really crucial.

“By using residual herbicides, or even tillage in some cases, by using these different tools we can reduce that population and allow for fewer and fewer weeds to be emerged when we go into that field to make that application.”

The mantra at Bayer Crop Science, Whalen said, is “start clean, spray clean and stay clean.”

“So, starting our field clean, whether that’s a herbicide burndown application, whether that’s tillage, then spraying when the weeds are relatively small, or when we think we have a clean field,” he said.

“A lot of growers like to scout from the pickup truck. We want to encourage growers to get out there, get in the field, identify the weeds that are actively growing, even though they might be really small. That’s a great time to spray those weeds, because when the weed is small, they’re a lot more vulnerable and susceptible to herbicides.”

The Right Fertilizer

Corn hybrids have gotten more efficient in their use of nitrogen.

“Now there are hybrids that might be more of a nitrogen hog or might be less of a nitrogen hog, but we’re seeing overall that corn hybrids can maybe use a little bit less nitrogen than they used to,” Whalen said.

“In terms of timing, there’s been research now for many, many decades that spoon-feeding that nitrogen to the corn crop when it needs it is the best and the most efficient,” he said.

“We do recommend a grower, if they are able, to apply that nitrogen split shot, whether that’s a pre-plant and then coming in with liquid 32 or 28, or even come in with a Y-drop application, that’s definitely a great option to use.”

The Right Fungicide

Fungicides are an important risk management tool, Whalen said.

“You’ll hear a lot of growers say, ‘Well, the fungicide didn’t pay for me this year, I’m not going to use it for the next few years.’ And what I encourage growers to think about is using a fungicide maybe on certain acres, on a hybrid that’s maybe more susceptible to certain diseases,” he said.

“As a blanket recommendation, I would encourage growers to use fungicides on all of their corn and all their soybean acres if possible, because the years that fungicide really pays off, and we hear about those 30-, 40-, 50-bushel yield protection levels that we get from the fungicides, think about how many more years and how many more applications that, you know, 50 bushels per acre can pay for.

“Just as we have various types of crop insurance, health insurance, life insurance, it brings that protection when you need it. Some years, yeah, we might have less moisture, lower disease pressure and we might not see as big of a bump in yield protection. But there are those heavy disease years where we really see those different fungicides more than double, triple their value to what they cost and really protect those bushels.”

James Henry

James Henry

Executive Editor